"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Monday, March 3, 2014

20 Miles

I wanted to do a fake LD (limited distance) ride, with a hold and vet check, just to see how Lily would do, both physically and mentally, both on the ride itself and with the whole concept of getting untacked, trotted out, fed, then tacked up again and ridden out once more.

Saturday was the day. Or rather, the LD Day!

Lily had the entire week prior off; I didn't even ride her the Friday before, just worked her for 15 minutes in the arena to let her stretch her legs as the ground had been frozen in the field. The timing for the LD on this particular Saturday was perfect, as it meant she would be having almost 2 entire weeks of vacation afterwards since next weekend I have Plans. (Plans will be told on the blog after they happen. Like this plan that I'm telling you about right now!)

My original goal was to ride out to Four Corners and Redneck Park for the first 10-15 miles, since the flat dirt roads on the way to Redneck Park would have permitted a lot of trotting and even cantering. Plus the Red Barn trail that we've done at Redneck Park is long enough that you can easily make an 8 mile loop. We could have done it twice and have had 16 miles in already. I would then return to the barn for a 30-45 minute hold and then go back out to the park across the street for the last 9 miles, since the trails there are shorter and you have to really get creative to get in more than 6 miles in there.

Well. The Goshen Hunt was going to be out at Redneck Park on this particular Saturday, so that was a huge monkey wrench in my plan. With some trepidation, I changed the plan: I'd do a 10 mile loop at the park across the street, return to the barn for a 30 minute hold, go back to the park across the street for another 10 mile loop (I figured I'd have a really hard time with this mentally), do another 30 minute hold, then do 5 miles in the backwoods. All of this had to be completed in 6 hours including the holds. 6 hours is the allotted total time you get to complete an LD at an endurance ride. Why I honestly didn't want to do the park across the street twice: not only for the mental factor, but also because, despite it being a lovely park with beautiful trails, there is pretty much no flat land anywhere in it. Most of the trails are rocky and the portions that are flat can get quite slick/muddy when they defrost. You pretty much don't ever get an opportunity to make up for slow time.

I woke up at the ungodly hour of 6:00 am and tried to eat breakfast. I could not; as I've gotten older, I've started having difficulties getting food into myself that early in the morning. I made myself a latte, got dressed and headed out the door. There is a McDonald's on the way to the barn where I stopped to get one of their oatmeals. I love their oatmeal.

Sunrise. The stuff you normally miss when you wake up at a normal hour to ride. ;)
Totally worth seeing this, IMO.

It was 4 degrees colder than this at the barn.
Oh yeah. It was FREEZING. I wore a million layers including my super uber insulated overpants. (With fleece breeches underneath; the insulated overpants came off before getting in the saddle.)

Kathy, my dearest friend Kathy, had volunteered to come with me on the first leg of the ride in the park. At that ridiculous hour. In the freezing cold.

She's the best, y'all.

She was finishing breakfast when I brought Lily in from the field. I gave Lily a wet mush of beet pulp, forage and her beet pulp-based grain and hung out with Kathy in the warmth of her barn apartment while Lily finished eating. We then tacked up together.

We both booted up the mares. I haven't ridden Lily in boots since November simply because it's been so muddy out that she just has better traction barefoot (our Maryland clay can be the slipperiest mud ever), but I wanted to check boot fit and make sure that everything was in order boot-wise; we'd had no problems with them prior other than the one lost boot the one time. Kathy hadn't used her boots on Queenie in just as long . The footing would be hard and frozen on this first loop and this had the added bonus of giving Lily extra cushioning with her orange Rennies. Plus I wanted to see how they'd hold up on a faster paced ride-most of the rides we'd done over rugged footing prior to November had been walk only. On this day, the idea was to do 50% walk, 50% trot on this first loop.

Since it was so cold, I put Lily's BOT back blanket on and one of my regular square pads on over that for this first loop, just to help warm up her muscles.

We were tacked up by 8:30 am, about 30 minutes later than originally intended. The delay was partially due to boot struggles and partially due to the barn horses being fed and turned out, which meant moving our girls out of the way so the guys could get through with the horses. Part of the reason why I'd planned to start this early was to have time to unwind and get Lily settled inbetween finishing the ride and having to leave for the TROT annual meeting at 5:00 pm. The other reason for this early start was because 8:00 am is when LDs usually start at endurance rides. I was serious about trying to recreate as much of the real scenario as possible.

The horses being fed and turned out was an added bonus in that it put both Lily and Queenie into a sort of "race brain". Both mares wanted to GO. Lily almost pranced to the mounting block, waited impatiently for me to get on, then tried going off down the driveway before I had my feet in the stirrups. Laughing, I brought her back and had her stand in front of Queenie to block her from moving forwards away from Kathy. (Yup, she really wanted to go too!) Lily stood in one spot but she tossed her head and gave little prancy steps...I probably could have gotten her to piaffe if I'd thought about it at the time.

We marched down the driveway. I was expecting my mare to slow down once we had passed the gate to her field but she surprised me by continuing to want to trot all the way up the driveway and into the park. She's never done this before. It was like she knew.

Born endurance horse? Wow.

We decided to do the meadow loop backwards so we could trot; the meadow loop is about a mile long. This took us right into the back trail that we prefer. It's one of the few in the park that doesn't have a name but it's one of my favorite routes as we rarely run into hikers in this portion and it takes us into the very back end of the park.

We walked most of the way as the footing was frozen and despite having her Gloves on, Queenie was slipping quite a bit. Lily was incredibly forward, with this long raking walk that almost felt like a gaited horse's amble. Where the footing was good, we'd trot as much as we could, even if only for a few steps, and then we'd walk again. Lily was actually the one making this decision and I let her, riding on a loose rein. I can't get over what an amazing trail horse this mare is turning into. AMAZING. The trot-a-few-steps, walk-a-few-steps routine reminded me of Funder's post on 20 Mule Team, where they would walk 12 steps then trot 12 steps, which I'd e-mailed to Kathy for her to read. I referenced the post and we both grinned. Funder, you're a serious inspiration.

Queenie refused to gait for the entire ride we did together, trotting instead. Kathy ended up giving up and posting for the first time in a long time.

We rode out onto the "new" trail that dead-ends in the field with the hill, did our routine gallop up the hill, where both mares lunged forward with gusto, then we walked back down the other side to re-trace our footsteps back towards the main trail.

At the bottom of the hill, we realized that Lily's left front boot had spun off and was hanging on by the pastern strap. We were about 4 miles into the ride. I got off, fixed it, and since I was off already, used the opportunity for a potty break. Queenie was being impatient about stopping our onward progress so I just walked Lily over with me to stand behind a tree (so Kathy wouldn't have to juggle holding onto both Queenie and Lily) and she just stood there despite her previous excitement over this ride.

The boot adjustment was painful. Not because of any fault of the boots themselves at all; this was more a fault of the gloves that needed to be removed to do this. We had already crossed two streams on this trail so the boots were soaked. I had to remove my gloves in the 20 degree temps we were having and within seconds my fingers were red and numb from the combination of cold + wet boots. I was astonished by how quickly I stopped feeling my fingers and how hard this made it to just undo the boot straps. It hurt to put my gloves back on. I think this was the most painful part of this entire ride. My hands tend to be cold all the time in the winter anyway but this was a killer. I'll be glad when it's warmer and cold + wet is not a deterring factor in anything involving riding! Otherwise, I'd be looking at thinner waterproof insulated gloves that would allow this kind of adjustment without having to remove said gloves.

Lily was raring to go again the minute I got on.

We arrived back at the main trail, then took the long path through the woods. I love that portion of trail as most of the time the footing is pretty good, you can see almost the entire length of trail as you are riding it; it winds gently through the trees with slow rises and dips. It's great for a bit of speedwork. In my head I call it the Woodlands Trail.

As we arrived at the beginning of this trail, I looked back to talk to Kathy and noticed that Queenie's left front Glove had also spun off and was hanging by the pastern strap.

I found a large tree trunk that Kathy would be able to use as a mounting block later and she dismounted to remove both of Queenie's Gloves (she only has front boots.) Queenie was not being very cooperative and Kathy had to let go of the reins to remove the tighter right front boot. Queenie offered Kathy her right front foot then moved it forward, placed it, and just kept on walking! I had Lily speed off after her and as we came abreast with Queenie, I reached out and grabbed her reins, effectively bringing both mares to a stop. (Lily is getting really good at this cutting-other-horses thing...) Queenie pouted and tried to nip Lily. "Darn it, I almost got away!" Lily just moved her head to the side to avoid the nip and made a face at Queenie. "Don't blame me; I had nothing to do with it! Blame the lady on my back!" I burst out laughing watching this exchange and continued holding Queenie's reins so Kathy could use both hands to remove the difficult right front boot.

Once she was securely back in the saddle, we continued on our way, trotting through the Woodlands trail to where it turned into the Hidden Pond trail that runs parallel to the river.

We crossed the river and made our way up the side of the hill, following the trail along the ridge of the mountain. This trail doesn't have a name either, but in my head I call it the Ridgeline Trail.  We made it all the way to the end of the trail where it dead-ends on one of the area's quiet back streets, then turned around.

At this point, Kathy noticed that Lily's left hind boot had spun off.

I got off, removed both hind boots and attached them to my saddle bag, and we continued on our way. We retraced our steps, crossed the river (for whatever reason, Lily decided to dive into the deep part of the river and canter through, to my complete surprise. I stopped her on the far bank so Queenie wouldn't be inspired to follow suit!), continued on the Hidden Pond trail up the hill, then took the fork that leads down to the river again.

At this river crossing there was a coil of rubber-covered wire right next to the near bank. It looked like it must have washed downstream from somewhere else. Lily had a small freakout about it and tried to spin around twice. I continued to turn her back to face the crossing, talking to her patiently and urging her forward, and she finally realized that the wire coil was not moving. She gave it the hairy eyeball and trotted through the river, to the tune of many "Good girl"s, a loose rein, and lots of pets on the neck. LOADS of progress in this mare's confidence in herself and her trust in me. And my own trust in her. At a previous point in our journey together I would have had to get off and lead her across at this new unknown obstacle on a well-known trail.

We trotted around the lake, up the hill behind the lake, back down the trail on the other side of the hill, then turned left, away from the river. We somehow ended up on the wrong trail which dead-ended in brush. There is a trail that goes through the brush and up the hill again, but we could not find it. Both Queenie and Lily did a great job bulldozing through the brush while Kathy and I tried to avoid getting stabbed in an eye. After a few minutes of not being able to find the trail, we gave up and turned around, heading back towards the river.

We were at about 7.5 miles at this point and my alloted time for this loop, 2.5 hours, was nearing its end. Due to the boot snafus we were behind what I had hoped but alas, this is the kind of snafu that can set you back at an endurance ride.

We turned towards home, doing the meadow loop one more time before leaving the park. We completed 9 miles in 2.5 hours. Charles was at the barn to meet me for our "vet check". I untacked Lily, set up her beet pulp with lots of warm water, and checked her pulse. She was at 54 beats per minute 5 minutes after returning home. (I checked Queenie for Kathy, too. Queenie, 19-year-old Queenie, was at 48 beats per minute 5 minutes after returning home!) I had Charles trot her out for me and she looked great: bright, trotting soundly with lots of bounce in her stride. She had a look of "WTF?" but she complied perfectly. I checked her gums for her capillary refill time (they were moist, pink and CRT was 1 second), and checked her gut sounds: lots of borborigmi going on. Her pulse immediately after the trot out was still 54. I took her back into the barn so she could eat her beet pulp + alfalfa.

I really wanted to keep the boots on her, but really wanted to see what kind of pace we could do without having to get off to adjust boots. We've been doing these trails barefoot all winter and the temps were supposed to go up into the 40's in the afternoon, so the ground was going to start to get slick. The Rennies are amazing and do have the best traction of any boots I've tried so far, but she has even better traction barefoot. So we went sans boots.

During all this, I shoved an Uncrustable into my face, following that with a vanilla protein milk. I downed half a bottle of plain water (I had water + Gatorade available also), and then a can of V8 juice (someone somewhere said it's awesome for this kind of event; I discovered I actually really wanted it now that it was available). I charged my phone and switched it from the Otterbox case to the Amphipod case I received from Phoebe for Christmas. This would allow me to just carry it on my arm, allowing me to see our mileage and time much easier than having to unsnap the phone from the Otterbox holster. The drawback was that it would make taking photos much more difficult, but it wasn't like I had taken that many photos on this experiment as it was. (In case you hadn't noticed yet...)

I started tacking Lily up again as she was finishing her food (I swapped out the BoT pad + cotton square pad for our Matrix Endurance Woolback), gave her the opportunity to finish before slipping the bridle on, and then we were off again. The 30 minute hold had turned into an hour, but I really wanted Lily to eat since she had not had anything to drink on the trail and there is absolutely no grass out there for her to munch on.

"Really? Again?"
Nah, she actually didn't care. This was her making faces at the camera; she hates having her picture taken. She'd had a bright perky expression seconds before! I honestly wasn't that worried about her opinion of going to the barn, taking a break, then getting tacked up again and going out again. We've done it before, pretty much every time we trailered off property back in FL. We'd go on the trails, have fun, return to the trailer for lunch, untack the horses so they could eat and rest, and then tack up and do it all over again. She had never complained before about this and I didn't think she would mind too terribly now. She didn't.
It's funny how everything we do in the process of training a horse, whether right or wrong, can have such long term repercussions later on down the line. I'm glad we did what we did the way we did it when we trailered off property back in FL.
This of course meant half an hour less to try to complete 25 miles in the desired time. That would have meant trying to do 16 miles in 2.5 hours (that's about 6.4 mph pace), which would have been doable if the footing on these trails wasn't so rugged. I decided to see how much of a distance we could put in in the remaining time and decided that we would try to do 11 miles (for a total of 20) in the allotted 2.5 hours. If we were able to go faster, so be it, but if we couldn't make it, it would be no skin off my back. This was just an experiment after all.

I set Pandora on my charged phone to the "Timber" (by Pitbull and Keesha) station, put on one ear bud and mounted up. Charles saw me off as we rode back up the driveway. Lily was plodding along.

"Wait...we're going up the driveway again?"
"Yes Lily, we are."
"But home is back that way." She looks over her shoulder.
"I know. But we're going away from home-that's the point."
"But we already did this."
"I know. It sucks. I don't want to go this way either. But we have to."
Walks 3 steps, slows down and looks over her shoulder.
"Home is back that way you know."
"I know Lily but we're not going home right now."

And then Charles pulled up next to us and took this photo:

I swear having him call out "I love you! Have fun!" on the way out gave me more energy.

We continued on up the driveway at a merrier pace, though I felt distinctly uncomfortable in my left shoulder and adjusted the safety vest a couple of times. If it's too snug, it will feel like it's cutting off circulation to my arms. That's what it felt like.

Despite Lily looking over her shoulder several times, she never tried to turn around, she never really stopped moving forwards. At another time in our lives together, way back at the beginning when I first started riding her, there might have been quite a bit of drama over being asked to go out again from home. She would have done it, but there would have been theatrics.

Once in the park, Lily was perfectly fine to go on and do the same thing all over again, alone.

We followed the exact same route that I had done with Kathy already: we mostly trotted up the meadow trail and into the back trail, then through the back loop to the field with the hill.

Throughout this back trail, we trotted when we could and walked when we couldn't. Once I cued the canter at a spot where it seemed safe to do. Lily pinned her ears at me when I insisted, gave one canter stride, slipped slightly, then broke back down into a trot. "That's why I didn't want to canter." I acquiesced and we continued on at a trot.

At the end of the trail, we rode through the field and galloped up the same hill we'd already done with Kathy and Queenie.

Lily bounded up the hill like it was the first time, no problem. Once at the top however, I analyzed how I was feeling, because I just wasn't feeling right but couldn't put my finger on it.

Was I thirsty? No
Was I hungry? No
Low blood sugar? No
Tired? Kind of, but it could be worse
Did anything hurt? No
Did I have to pee? Yes, but not terribly
Was I hot? ...Why yes. Yes, I'm really really hot

It was weird because it was still cold enough that I wasn't sweating, but with all the trotting we'd been doing I was definitely overheated. It was in the high 30's-low 40's by this point.

I dismounted at the top of the hill, completely letting go of Lily's reins so I could struggle with my clothes. She just stood there. I removed my vest and the fleece jacket I was wearing, replaced the safety vest, rolled the fleece jacket up and attached it to the saddle bag thanks to some Velcro straps I'd invested in (thank you Funder for recommending this to another rider!) Since I was already off, I did take a potty break and again Lily waited patiently.

Since I was fiddling with all the things, I also decided to switch my radio station on Pandora. I put it back on the "Don Omar" station which plays all of my Puertorrican and Florida music (a combination of reggaeton, dance & house music, salsa, merengue, and bachata.) I would never listen to this kind of music back in PR but now it just makes me feel all warm inside when I listen to it. It's been the soundtrack for most of our solo rides for the last month or so.

Between the removed jacket, the empty bladder and the music change, I was beaming once I was back in the saddle, feeling a million times better. I had a sip of my Gatoraded (yes, that is now a verb) water, and we continued on our way.

We retraced our steps, then went up the slope and through the Woodlands Trail, mostly at a trot. We crossed the river (I had Lily stop in the middle of the river and asked her to drink. "Toma agua," which means "drink water" in Spanish. She's bilingual; she was trained in English so basic commands are in English but for the most part I speak to her in Spanish. She has rapidly learned that "Toma agua" means that she is to put her nose down to the water. She took a couple of sips but wouldn't drink any more) and went up the hill, all the way to the Ridgeline Trail again. Lily asked to walk a good portion of this section and I let her take a break. When she was ready, we trotted again.

Happy ears!

We followed the Ridgeline Trail all the way to where it dead-ends on the back country road, then rode out onto the road itself, trotting along in the grass by the pavement. Lily had been bright and relaxed all this time, but she was noticeably perkier on this "new" section. (We rode up this road once before, with Natalie and Jane) We turned around before we got to the house with the donkey in the yard.

On our way back, we came across a lady walking her enormous Rottweiler.

The Rottweiler was on a leash and the woman was incredibly nice, stopping by the side of the road and having her Rottie sit and wait as we walked past. Lily gave him the hairy eyeball but I reassured her, thanked the woman, complimented her handsome well-behaved dog, and we continued on our way.

I love Marylanders. They are awesome.

As we walked on past the lady and her dog, moving back into the woods, I realized I had a horrific cramp in my left hamstring. WTF? I'd been drinking and eating and we were only at mile 13 at this point. I took my foot out of the stirrup and stretched and shook my leg (thank God for all the rider desensitization I did with Lily back when she was being rehabbed...me shaking a leg from her back would have made her shoot off into the sky like a rocket at another time...) and thankfully the cramp disappeared. I changed my position in the saddle, pushing my legs forward and heels down, and the cramp did not threaten to return.

We retraced our steps along the Ridgeline trail and back down to the river. Lily again dove into the water and trotted through, not even giving me a chance to ask her to drink. Shaking my head, we followed the Hidden Pond trail up the hill and back down to the river. She didn't care about the wire coil this time, but she insisted on trotting through the river.

I threw my hands up at all of these missed opportunities for her to drink, and we continued on around the lake, up the hill, down the trail on the other side of the hill, and then we repeated the lake loop a second time. I made her stop in the river and this time, finally, she drank. We were at about mile 18 by then, so we turned towards home, but we took the long way around, doing the Woodland Trail backwards.

I knew the footing was good in this stretch.We'd done it in the opposite direction twice already. So I asked Lily to canter. She hesitated for a moment. "You can do it. It's okay." She picked up the canter.

And then she realized that she really could do it...and the canter stretched out into a gallop. A joyful gallop, completely in control, flying through the Woodlands Trail, flowing up and down the slopes in the trail and following its gentle winding through the trees. I leaned forwards and couldn't help giving a whoop.

We walked the next stretch of trail until we came back to the fork that would take us to the meadow trail. This portion of trail was also hard and smooth and again I cued a canter and again Lily stretched out into a gallop.

The trail straightened out and I realized that a HUGE tree had fallen across the trail. There was 4' a gap between the trunk and the ground; the tree itself was at least 3' wide across. Since that 3' diameter was lying sideways across the trail, it created a 7' high obstacle.

No guys. We did not jump it.

I straightened up and Lily immediately came back down to a walk. We walked around the tree, then picked up a trot on the other side.

We came out of the trees and into the bright sunlight, onto the meadow trail. Lily trotted along happily, ears pricked, flicking her toes out in front of her and I laughed.

Shakira's Waka Waka (This Time For Africa) started playing on Pandora right at this moment. 
I swear Pandora knows exactly the best songs to play at any given time. This totally matched our mood as we trotted around the meadow.

There is a portion of meadow trail that cuts right through the center of the meadow. We hadn't crossed through there since we first moved to this barn. I checked Runmeter and we still had about half a mile more that we needed to add to the distance, so I asked Lily to take this route that cut through the meadow.

The footing here was surprisingly smooth and dry. Lily lengthened her trot. My cue for her to canter is "Up." I asked her, "Up?" She bounced into a happy relaxed canter.

We arrived at the end of this portion of trail then veered left and did the meadow loop again. We walked the last quarter mile of the meadow trail and the rest of the way home.

We hit 20 miles as we walked up the driveway, completing 11 miles in 2.5 hours and finishing the distance in 5 hours.

I'm still wondering what our pace would have been sans boot snafus...oh well.

I told you: this is a hilly trail!

I dismounted at the top of the driveway, walked Lily into the barn, removed the saddle and took her pulse. I wasn't exactly thrilled when I got 60. We'll need to walk more than a mile to cool off after that much trotting.

Not a good confo shot; she looks so disproportionate in this photo! Her head is NOT that big in relation to her body!
But it was taken immediately after walking into the barn and you can see how perky she was.
Note the rolled-up gray fleece sweater in front of the saddle.
Happy mare after 20 miles. So awesome.
I removed the bridle and offered her water but she did not drink. Waited 10 minutes and took her pulse again. She was down to 54. I set up her beet pulp to soak then led her out of the barn and did my own vet check: she was a little dehydrated: gums were moist but CRT was a little slower than 2 seconds; good gut sounds, and when I asked her to trot off with me, she responded great, still bright and willing. Pulse after was 54.

I set Lily up in the wash stall with a bucket of water, a muck bucket full of alfalfa, and her beet pulp, extra mushy.

After Lily was digging into her food, I changed for the TROT meeting. Charles returned to the barn to meet up with us. By then Lily was done eating ALL the food; I was able to have Charles trot her out for me one more time so I could watch her go. She was still happy and bright, and trotted off fantastically.

I thanked my little mare yet again and she received a ton of love. She has come SUCH a long way. SUCH a long way from how she used to be!

We rode to the meeting with Kathy and her hubs in her car. The meeting was in Mount Airy, MD. It was very informal. They had a silent auction and a bunch of consignment items for sale. I scored a brand new fleece top for $10.

I finally joined TROT, which I was pretty excited about. It's a huge organization that works to maintain the horse trails in MD; they've been working hard on getting all of the Maryland trails mapped and they host trail rides and judged pleasure rides.

I had donated one of my drawings for their silent auction:

It was pretty cool to see. People were bidding on it, too!
The food was amazing. They had a sort of potluck; EVERYONE had brought a dish. All four of us piled the food onto our plates and sat down to eat while the meeting started. The meeting itself flew by. We did not win any of the raffles but I did get to learn that Natalie, one of our boarders with whom I've ridden to Redneck Park, won my drawing. She was so excited! It was a great, relaxed ending to a very long day, and I was pretty amazed that I still wasn't exhausted after all of that.


I've heard say that LDs are great for figuring out your gear and food for the day you decide to go on longer rides. This was part of the reason why I wanted to do this experiment, to put all of our gear and training to the test over a longer distance. Here's my reviews on everything.

I want to note that I am a notoriously bad eater at the barn in general. I rarely eat when I'm around horses and have been this way since I was a kid. As an adult, I'll have a decent protein-heavy lunch (like scrambled eggs and turkey bacon) with espresso coffee and milk, grab a granola bar/cheese sticks/yogurt and head out the door. I'll eat one snack after riding and then dinner once I'm home. I rarely get hungry after a day at the barn until after I've showered. So I really did need to make sure I knew what would work for me on a longer ride. Here's what worked:
-I had one bottle with plain water and another with 25% Gatorade + 75% water. I slugged the water/Gatorade combo most of the time. It wasn't until the last 4 miles that I really started drinking straight water.
- I love PowerBar products. I love PowerBars and chocolate is my favorite flavor but the texture isn't always appealing when you don't feel like eating. I found other alternatives at the grocery store. Love the Performance Energy Chews; I ate 1 bag of these throughout the ride. I've been trying the Powerbar Energy Blends in the banana blueberry flavor. It really tastes like pureed bananas; it's delicious. Had one of these on the second leg. I also had a Clif Shot in each leg of the ride (mocha flavor was the only one available at the store that day; I really liked it).
- Lunch was an Uncrustable (grape jelly), a Rockin Refuel vanilla protein milk (Giant supermarkets sells these; they were an accidental find on a grocery store run and have become a favorite recovery drink), and a V8 juice.
- Upon our return, I had another Rockin Refuel vanilla milk and a Kind bar. Dinner was spinach salad, my own pasta salad, a stuffed shell, and turkey at the TROT dinner.

None of these sponsor me (I wish!) nor do I get anything out of posting this photo. These all just worked really well!
I did something right because I was amazingly NOT SORE today. Wow.

Things that worked: 
- The spare Velcro straps. A Funder idea; she had posted a comment on another endurance rider's blog and I thought it was brilliant. It is.
- The extra water bottle.
- Lily wearing the boots. I wish I'd ridden her for the full 20 miles in them as she was noticeably more confident with the boots on. I just didn't want to keep having to adjust them for the second part of the ride alone.
- The kimberwicke bit. She likes this bit, she's happy in it, and she respects it when she gets fussy about GOING. It's going to stay our endurance bit, at least for now until I can figure out some bitless thing for us for later. I loved Funder's idea of wearing a bitless bridle as the halter under the regular bridle for later down the trail...hmmm...
- Hiking boots + half chaps. So much easier to get the foot in the stirrup with this combo than with tall boots. I was happy I chose to do this instead of riding with the Rimfrosts.
- Everything I ate.
- My underwear! This might be TMI for some but this is for my own personal records and it's a subject that comes up on endurance blogs as the wrong underwear choice can quite literally end your ride early! Seriously, that was FIVE hours in the saddle; I think it's worth writing about what undergarments worked. About 2 years ago I found these no-panty-line bikini panties at Target with the flat, sticky seams (VS makes something similar for twice the price) and figured they'd be perfect for wearing under my scrubs. Well, I wear them under my scrubs and for any ride that's going to be more than an hour. They are my favorite underwear and I was so, so bummed to discover that Target discontinued them!! So need to hang onto these and find a similar backup. (I've had problems with other VS underwear riding up just going through a normal day. Not fun; don't know if I'm willing to try theirs...maybe athletic underwear first.) They didn't chafe, didn't hurt, didn't bunch up, didn't leave any kind of blister/rub/anything anywhere. WIN!

Things that need to improve:
- Will need a cantle bag for the emergency stuff, the stuff that I would have to dismount to access anyway, like basic equine first aid equipment (I have a small roll of Elastikon and Vetrap in my pommel bag right now, for example.) I want more room in the pommel bags for the essentials like Advil, Benadryl, e-lyte capsules, snacks, etc.
- Lily is a horse that needs e-lytes. Anything to improve her drinking. Need to work on syringing her stuff as she hates being syringed anything with a vengeance. There are worse horses, but still. She could be better. She needs to drink more.
- Need to add e-lytes for myself. The cramp at mile 13 was surprising, unexpected, and no fun.
- I wish I'd thought to stop the timer when stopping to fix the boots to get a real estimate of our time, but I figured that at real rides this is the kind of situation that can set you back anyway so I let the timer continue to run in part to see if we'd be able to make up for the lost time. Which brings me to the next issue: boots. Not sure what to do about the boots. I love the Rennies but having to get off every 4 miles to adjust them was not my idea of fun (I'd never had so much problems with them ever before. Maybe her feet have changed? I've been riding her bare all winter.) The OD rides REQUIRE boots or shoes on all 4 hooves. I've been considering getting a full set of Gloves as backups since they cost about $20 less/boot and Lily did great in Q's despite them being a size too large, back when we were figuring out the sizing issue with the Rennies. After Funder's post on Dixie's glue-on Gloves, I'm thinking about that too. I'd happily put the Eponas back on her, but we had issues with those shoes coming off in deep mud in the field, despite being both glued and casted on Lily's feet. I'd rather deal with a boot issue than a shoe issue...Aaagh! We're running out of time to figure this one out. To the experienced endurance riders that read this blog: Thoughts/advice on boots vs glue-ons? I know a glue-on can come off too, but if it can stay put on a hoof longer than 4 miles, I'm happy. (Then there is also the matter of how many spare boots to carry on a ride? Lily is starting to look like a pack mule.)
- We still have about 6 weeks before we have to start tapering prior to the ride; I'm glad we did this experiment this early because now I know I'd like to add 1 HIIT workout a week to improve recovery times.
- Want to add more HIIT for myself: get back on the bandwagon re: Spinning 2 times a week (have had a hard time getting to class as gym classes get cancelled on snow days, which are happening every other week...) and do a 3rd workout combining the elliptical, treadmill and rowing machine, 15 minutes of intervals on each machine, back to back.


  1. Wow! What a great idea to prepare! It is also great that you have access to trails like that.

    1. Thanks! :) The trail access at this barn is one of its biggest highlights!

  2. Reading this post just made me think about that trail ride from hell I went on and how many things were wrong with it. Just for starters: I didn't have water, my horse had no access to water, and we certainly weren't conditioned at all for fifteen miles. I think that if Archie and I were prepared for it, if I planned it all out like you did and gave him timed breaks, we'd actually enjoy it.

    So, you say you have six weeks to taper. Does this mean you've got a ride in mind?

    1. Longer rides with preparation, even if it's just carrying a water bottle with you and being able to give your boy a break, can make a big difference. I was horrified for you on that ride, that they didn't warn you in advance that that was the way it was going to be, especially given the fact that that was your first time riding with that group.

      And yup, we've been training for the past 8 months for a ride in Virginia at the end of April. :) I haven't mentioned it outright on here, but it's the reason behind all of the trail riding and conditioning we've been doing.

    2. Squeeeee! I'm excited for you!

  3. Great job, you two! (You five, if you count Kathy and Queenie and Charles!) You’re readier for your first LD than I was (and I finished mine, FWIW!)

    LOL’d at the “what is this uncomfortable feeling? Is it pain? Is it cold?” I do that too! Something is wrong, but what could it be!?

    Don’t worry too much about Lily drinking. You did 20 miles, she was hydrated, she ate mash, and she did drink, right where many horses decide to drink. If you’ve got her food and electrolytes right, she’ll keep drinking steadily after she starts, but many, many horses won’t drink for the first fifteen miles. If she doesn’t drink for 20 miles, or if she stops drinking later in the day, you’ve got a problem brewing, but not drinking for 15-18 miles is normal. This is one of those moments where you have to put your money where your mouth is and trust the horse.

    Bitless — I just want to point out that 20MT was the first time I’d ridden Dixie without a bit since The Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Ten. Seriously. It just finally felt right; I’d done several 50s last year where I thought “I bet I don’t really need the bit in the afternoon,” and that was just the right time to try it. Don’t rush to drop the bit til she learns the entire “game” she’s playing.

    Yay for undies that worked! Do you have anti-chafe stuff? Butt Butt’r, Bodyglide, Anti-Monkey Butt Powder, and Monistat Soothing Powder Gel are the most popular I know of.

    Boots — I think this is the point where the Renegade users will jump in and tell you to adjust the cables. I will tell you that Gloves might work. I also hate cold muddy velcro, and I’m so, so lucky that I lose a boot about every hundred miles, LOL.
    You don’t want to glue on. More than a hundred bucks for the shells, probably $50 to invest in the glue and tips and gloves and glue guns, big learning curve, limited reuse. When you’re jumping up past one-day 50s is when you want to glue. You can turn Easyboot shells into Gloves by spending another $30 PER HOOF to add gaiters, which cuts down on the cost some, but they are more likely to fail if you try to re-glue the same shells.
    Fix your boot problem, try not to worry about the not-drinking for the first fifteen miles, and keep doing what you’re doing. You’ll rock it!

    1. Thank you for all the info and advice Funder! I hadn't even thought of the anti-chafe stuff. I need to add some of that to the gear! And thank you for the recommendations on the boots vs glue-ons. I'll try adjusting the cables to see if that helps; I'd love to NOT have to invest in anything else other than backup boots! I'd been expecting some sort of issue because we've been putting in up to 30 miles a week barefoot over the winter; I'm glad I decided to try out the boots again at this point to see if anything needs to be adjusted.

      Your comment about the drinking made me feel better! Thank you!!

  4. What a great post!!!! Sounds like you had a great time and she did well and you did awesome :). Im on my phone driving so cant ho on mich longer but ill try to come back on a computer and look at your ride analysis better

    1. Thank you Mel! I'll look forward to your comments! I'd love your opinion on the boots, though I'm guessing you will probably need photos to see what needs adjusting. I'll post photos to our group later this week. We're kind of snowed in today.

  5. What a great ride!! I'm super impressed with how Lily did and that you weren't even SORE the next day. Seems unfair.

    I agree with Liz that the two of you are ready for a 50!! Woot.

    Wish I could ride with you.

    1. I'm still saying that saddle helps a ton when it comes to comfort! ;) And yes, it would be the best thing ever if you could ride with us too!

  6. What a great way to test things out!

    1. It was a great idea to do this beforehand; best way to figure out if there are any issues with gear/food/tack that need to be improved upon! :)

  7. Awesome! Good job Lily and Saiph! I'm actually considering volunteering at that OD ride in April. Maybe I'll see you there:)

    1. It would be awesome to meet you in person! Keep us posted if you really do decide to go!

  8. I am so very excited for you!
    I read the comment about the velcro straps, but I didn't actually PROCESS that comment, so I am now contemplating where best to buy them and in what size. Brilliant.

    When she wants to drink, she'll drink. Fetti politely ignored the vast majority of water on our first two 25s, if memory serves, but she firmly redirected us to a water trough at mile 23-point-five or so. She knew it was there and she wasn't going past without getting a drink, despite her disinterest the rest of the time. Future rides? She still ignores that water trough when I offer.

    I'm not sure how you train 'willingness to go back out on the same trail'. I know we're lacking there. We may need to experiment with doing something similar in a month or two whenever the dam goes down. Good mare, though! Very good mare. 20 miles in 5 hours solo/with one buddy horse sounds good to me.

    1. Thank you Figure!! The Velcro straps I got were these: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008ODHTZY/ref=oh_details_o05_s00_i01?ie=UTF8&psc=1 For that price, I got 2 packets so I'd have 2 straps of each length. I like that these have the ring so the strap doubles back onto itself.

      Thank you for sharing the details of Fetti's drinking habits! It's good to know that there are this many horses that won't drink until much later in an LD. Makes me feel better. :)

      I'm not sure how you'd train "willingness to go back out on same trail" either. The girl that did Lily's first training did a fantastic job with her (before she fell into the hands of the psycho cowboy trainer), but I think part of it is just Lily's temperament. She's always been a pretty submissive horse in general.

  9. Awesome! I'm so glad you learned so much on your ride! When I did a 15 mile ride last year as prep for the Intro Ride, it was really helpful. But, I learned a lot more on the Intro Ride itself because there is really nothing you can do to completely compare to being out in an area you've never been to before on trails you've never seen before riding with people you don't know (although hopefully you'll have Liz for your first ride:)) I can't wait to hear how your actual ride goes - I think you guys are going to do great:)

    1. Totally agree!! This was just to see if we could do the distance + check all of our gear to see if anything needed to be changed. I'm glad we did the trial. :) Yup, the plan is to ride with Liz, which *should* minimize some of the attitudes and criticism that seem to abound towards noobs in the sport...we shall see! *fingers crossed*

  10. How have I missed your blog?! Found you through Karen Burch - you left a great comment on her blog recently.

    Good luck with your endurance riding - you and Lily sound like a great team! :D

    1. Thank you!! And glad you liked the comment on Karen's blog. :)

  11. I got behind on reading blogs again, but I'm getting caught up. This post was awesome! So informative. I'm glad the trial LD went so well. You're so smart to figure it all out in a trial instead of waiting for the real thing to see what works and what doesn't. Thanks for sharing with all of us!