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



Thursday, October 30, 2014

Fort Valley 50: Review

So how are we doing?

Lily is doing FANTASTIC. She is happy to see me at the barn and will come find me when she sees me arrive. Her eyes are bright, her coat soft and shinier than ever, her weight remained the same, and she's moving well. She had a tiny bit of fill around her fetlocks the morning after the ride and some swelling around the RF pastern from the boot scrape, but I was still very happy with how her legs looked. She used to be a horse that stocked up both when confined and after a big effort, but it didn't happen neither at the OD nor at Fort Valley. I didn't wrap her legs either time; I just slathered on a thick layer of Sore-No More poultice once she was back at the corral post-ride and it has seemed to do the trick both times.  When she got home, I released her in the barnyard and she trotted down to the far corner of the paddock and rolled and rolled and rolled, turning all the way over from one side to the other each time. She must've rolled for a good 5 minutes and I couldn't help laughing. "I guess her back doesn't hurt if she's able to roll like that!" I told Zoe, who was also watching her and chuckling. She then got up and trotted around until I brought out a mash for her.

She's been getting 2 to 3 mashes a day and wolfing them down, plus moistened hay morning and evening, and a daily dose of Perform n' Win via syringe. (It's a very fine powder that dissolves fabulously in water; I want to introduce her to it in water buckets, but there will be plenty of time for that later). Her poops are formed but slightly soft, the way they normally are, which indicates she is drinking well. The rub on her RF from the boot is healing well. No swelling/inflammation, and she lets me touch it without issue.

When we arrived home on Saturday. After rolling to her heart's content.
On Tuesday night. I haven't touched her with a brush since she got home on Saturday.
I had read in more than one source that endurance horses tend to go up in the herd pecking order as they become more experienced. Going over a million miles will increase their self-confidence like that. Lily has always been close to the bottom of the totem pole, even after the OD 50, where she followed Q for most of the ride. However on Wednesday of this week, Zoe mentioned that she has been seeing Lily bossing Gracie around. I said, "You mean Gracie is bossing Lily." Zoe responded, "No, I mean Lily is bossing Gracie." My eyes almost popped out of my head. Gracie has always been Super Confident Second in Command in the previous herd and the current herd, with Deja being the alpha in the current herd. Gracie would hang out with Deja, and Lily would kind of follow around in Gracie's shadow: Lily was third out of 4 mares in the pecking order.  Over the past 3 days, it is now LILY that is hanging out WITH DEJA...I watched Lily herd Gracie and then approach Deja with pinned ears before joining her to graze. Lily then herded the others down to the bottom field. (!!!!!!!!!!!!) Uh, guys? This is HUGEHUGEHUGEHUGE for this mare...for the first time EVER she is either second or even, dare I say, first in command! I will have to observe more to determine which ranking position she is in, but she is definitely near the top now. My conclusion is that it is a direct result of leading for nearly 50 miles of trail, and of me letting her pick and choose how fast or slow she wanted to go over said 50 miles of trail. OMG my meek submissive girl has grown balls! ;)

I was very stiff the morning after the ride (Saturday) and on Sunday I was sore around my shoulders, calves and inner thighs. Movement helped significantly. It was just lactic acid buildup. After forcing myself to move on Sunday by helping out around the barn, I was good as gold by Monday morning. 


What worked

Exercise
Lily's
Lily's conditioning between the OD and Fort Valley. It was a kick-ass program that kept my non-Arab going over 50 miles of terrain with strength and energy. Really, really happy with the results. She wanted to trot up all the hills and sometimes she got very frustrated if the horses in front were keeping us at a walk. When left to her own devices, she would trot up, walk for a short section, then trot more. Then we would walk a good ways on the downhill on the other side of the mountain for her to rest.
I would still like to add more hill sets to her conditioning for the next ride: do once a week or twice monthly hill set rides to shorten her recovery times more.
The improvement in speed was also stellar: Liz kept track of the miles on her GPS app and since Lily and I were leading, I kept track of our speed. Lily's walk used to be 2.5 to 3.5 mph; her average trot was 6 mph; average canter was 13 mph. During this ride, her walk ranged from 2.9 to 4 mph; her trot averaged 8 mph and often went all the way up to 10 mph, and I kept her canters at around 13 mph (that's the speed of her "all-day canter") though she did canter faster than that at times. I just didn't look down at the GPS. Why would you want to train for a faster trot and canter? In my case it wasn't necessarily about making better time, it was so we could walk more during competition! :) Which is why our average pace stayed at a pretty solid 6 mph: we did A LOT of walking. About 40% of the ride was done at the trot, 40% walk and 20% canter.
Mine
I felt like I had not done enough rider fitness-wise going into this, but I was happy to be proved wrong. I was able to post and two-point throughout the entire 50 miles of riding, get off and on to fix boots, hike up and down mountains when necessary, and enjoy being comfortable in the saddle. I got stiff towards the end of the second loop when the mares were walking up the mountain, but getting off and hiking next to Lily was a big help. I stiffened up more at the second hold, but taking elyte capsules and ibuprofen at the end of the hold, and working hard to hydrate more during the hold did help. It was very painful to get back on (my inner thighs hurt) but the soreness disappeared pretty much right when we started trotting on the third loop.

Hiking with our girls towards the end of the second loop.
Photo by Michelle Mayer.


Tack
- The Wintec Pro Contourbloc for competition. It was a brilliant idea to use this saddle as I know this is what helped Lily be able to perform so well over such varied terrain, simply because it is lighter. Thanks to using thin pads under it, she had NO back soreness after the ride, as evidenced by her willingness to fully roll over repeatedly once she was back home! I was actually quite comfortable in it after both finding my seat in it and using the full sheepskin cover for training rides to allow myself to get used to it. 
- Stirrups with offset eyes and Compositi cages. I loooove my EZ Ride stirrups but for whatever reason, their stirrup bars really bothered me when using the EZ rides with this saddle: the stirrup bars would poke my legs. So I swapped the EZ Rides for what are usually Charles's stirrups and had no shin issues whatsoever. No shin muscle soreness either neither during nor after the ride. Shin muscle soreness plagued me around 30 miles into the OD back in June and were so painful the next day I couldn't even touch the fronts of my lower legs! Issue: gone! I'm wondering if the muscle soreness issue disappeared during this ride because the saddle was different, because of the offset eyes on the stirrups or because I focused on strengthening my lower legs more? Whatever it was, it worked, and I will continue to use this setup + strengthening program for competing.
Stirrups with Compositi cages and halter fleece to cover the adjustment system of the Webbers. Having offset eyes on the stirrups (or using stirrup turners like Liz did) can eliminate torque on the legs, hips and back because the stirrups will always hang like this.
- I had been using Wintec Webbers with this saddle and the metal slot adjustment system would dig into my shins during training rides...so I bought a set of halter fleeces and used halter fleece cheek pieces on the lower part of the Webbers to cover the adjustment system. (See photo above.) Voila! Problem solved!
- At the OD, the pommel of the Alta dug into the fronts of my thighs when going down mountains. I ended up with HUGE welts from the pommel that turned my walk into a swagger for the following week...which is why I also wanted to use the Wintec for competition: no upommel at all because it is a dressage saddle. I would have preferred to not have the giant knee blocks of my Wintec Pro Contourbloc but they honestly did not interfere with my riding going up and down mountains like I had originally expected. No back soreness, no shoulder knots, no angry sciatic nerves, which were issues I had had with this saddle before on long rides, prior to adding the sheepskin cover. I think the sheepskin cover helped the saddle take up enough leg space that it prevented these issues. Go figure. These are just peculiarities of my own anatomy that I'm learning about.
- Using thin pads for the Wintec. The saddle is fitted to Lily in such a way that using my thicker Woolback Matrix pad, which works so well on the Alta, is too much. The Woolback + Wintec will make Lily's back sore. I have an Ambleside wool-backed dressage pad which Lily wore in the first 2 loops that worked beautifully for her. I swapped it out for a regular cotton pad for the last loop so she would have a dry pad under the saddle. I liked being able to change pads at the holds as it does help prevent rubbing/chafing issues and will probably be doing this again in the future. As for the Ambleside pad, yes, it is expensive. And yes, it is velvet on the outside. And yes, it is worth every penny. I've had that pad going on 2 years now and am thoroughly in love with it. It barely needs washing: it dries quickly when hung to dry after sweaty rides and the sweat/hair can simply be brushed off with a medium horse grooming brush. To wash, toss it in the washer with Woolite and cold water: it comes out looking like new. I LOVE that pad and I love it now even more after it proved itself over so many miles. Each Ambleside pad is completely unique and handmade.

You can get a glimpse of the pad in question in this photo if you embiggen. Candid shot by Michelle Mayer taken at the end of the first loop. Yup, I was fixing a boot.

Boots
- Speaking of boots. Despite all of our issues with boot cables and the one chafing incident, I'm still happy with the choice of boots over steel shoes for Lily. Having shoes on a horse doesn't mean that the horse isn't going to lose any shoes. They can still come unglued or ripped off if nailed. Lily is happy with boots on her feet and she strides out confidently, flicking her toes and landing heel-first on all four feet, attacking rocky footing without a second thought. She used to have front steel shoes when I first bought her, and she never moved like this with metal shoes. I will continue using our boot assortment for training rides and for LDs if we ever do any of those (Charles really wants to do LDs with Gracie, which means I would be accompanying him on Lily.) 
- Having multiple pairs of boots of different styles that have worked during conditioning rides was one of the best ideas I've ever had. I was able to keep 4 spares in my cantle bags at all times.

The concrete bridge at the beginning and end of the first and second loops where steel-shod horses slipped.
No issues for us with our mares' feet booted.
Photo by Michelle Mayer

The Beast
- Our 2006 Chevy Silverado. It really is a beast. It towed Kathy's trailer as if it wasn't there, using up only 1/3 of a gas tank on the way to Fort Valley and only 1/4 tank on the way back to MD. That was 100 miles each way. All I can say is DAAAYUMMM! I was not expecting that good of a gas mileage at all from this big of a truck. 
- I slept in the back seat of the truck both nights simply because I wake up at night to check on Lily and it is so much easier to bundle up and get out of a car than it is to squirm out of a tent when it is frigid outside. The backseat of The Beast is longer than my Corolla's, which meant I slept better because I didn't have to sleep in the fetal position all night. I had my pillows, a flannel blanket, a Polar fleece blanket and a comforter and that was enough for staying warm in 30 degree weather at night.

Clothes
- Wore my safety vest for the first 2 loops and it didn't bother me at all. It helped keep me warm in the early morning hours when temps were in the 40's.
- Having extra shirts, socks and underwear to change into when the temperatures are changing so much throughout the day. I changed into a different shirt at the first hold, and into different underwear and socks at the second hold, and was able to stay dry, comfortable and chafe-free all day long.
- Wearing hiking boots. After hyper extending my left ankle while dismounting on the first loop of the OD in June due to wearing my Merrell shoes, I decided to just wear hiking boots this time around. They worked beautifully, both for riding and hiking. They're just an older pair of beat-up Timberlands that I've had for over 10 years now.

What didn't work

Tack
- Our girths with this saddle. I own one Woolback dressage girth and one Smartpak fleece dressage girth that is so beat up I have it encased in a Woolback girth cover. Both girths were washed with Woolite, hung to dry, and the wool combed with a slicker brush to fluff it up. Nothing new; I've washed these girths in this manner before without issue. Despite switching girths at the second hold, Lily still ended up with girth galls. No actual chafing, but the area behind her elbows was sensitive the day of the ride and swollen 24 hrs later. She has some flakiness going on 3 days later. I haven't had issues with either girth when used with the Alta, even when using the Woolback girth + Alta at the OD ride. The girthing systems are different for the two saddles though so I think this may be part of the issue: the Alta has center hung billets whereas the Wintec has a "point billet" configuration. I may need an anatomical or contoured girth for the Wintec for competition, a thought that popped into my head after seeing Gail's anatomical girth for Nimo. I'm leery of leather or synthetics as both have chafed Lily before...which means I may need to splurge on something like a Mattes contoured girth with its removable sheepskin covers (because I can wash them!). >.< Christmas present, Charles pweeeease? I need to remember to bring my bottle of Show Sheen for competition: spraying the girth area with Show Sheen prior to tacking up helps the skin slide under the girth, preventing rubs. This has worked very well with Gracie, who used to chafe with the Woolback.

Boots
- I love my Renegades and Vipers. I really do. I'm hoping the frayed cable issue resolves after replacing the cables, though that always leaves me afraid of more slipped cables, no matter how much I tighten the screws. It's a problem that you can't fix in the middle of a ride and you don't really have enough time at the holds to fix slipped cables either, unless you're really good (and quick!) at it. The Gloves outperformed the Lander Industries boots in the sense that I did not have to get off to replace them once they were on, but they were only on for one loop so that's not a good nor fair comparison at all. I would probably switch to Gloves entirely if they had better quality Velcro on the gaiters, but I have had to replace so many gaiters now that I'm honestly more unhappy with the Gloves as a whole than with the Renegades/Vipers. Cables are much cheaper and easier to replace than the goddamn gaiters that need to be unscrewed by man hands. Which is why I will not be switching to Easyboot Epics like other riders at FV recommended. Cables + flimsy Velcro gaiters? Ummm no no no no NO.

Electrolyting
Lily
- Ummm, yeah. :( I feel like I'm beating this subject into the ground now, but it's been at the front of my mind since we came home from the ride. I wish there was some scanner thingy like those infrared thermometers that you could just point at the horse during a ride and the scanner could tell you, "Needs more sodium. Do this." But that's what the vets are for. So if you are worried about your horse not drinking well, or not having excellent hydration scores at the checks despite drinking well, ask the vets at the check as soon as you notice the issue. Don't wait until the end. I feel like I should have asked about this at the second hold, when Lily's CRI was 64/64 and she had B's on skin tenting and CRT, despite her fitness and eating and drinking on trail. I just didn't think to. She looked really good attitude-wise and the vets weren't concerned about it when I told them she had been eating and drinking. Seeing that the vets at Sara's ride weren't worried about the same things with Gem (though Gem's CRIs were SPECTCULAR!) makes me feel a little better about not asking at the moment. I won't ever make this mistake again. But still. Because hindsight. I will not be using Perfect Balance again for Lily. Why was I using this electrolyte to begin with? Because it is recommended by The Horse Journal and Dr. Eleanor Kellon. Because it doesn't have added sugar. Because it is not super irritating to the stomach. And it was recommended at the AERC convention in Atlanta, GA, which Liz and I attended spring of this year. It's a good electrolyte formula; I'm not saying it's not going to work for you. I'm just saying it didn't work for this particular horse. :/
Myself
I flunked my own elyting too. I definitely would have not had cramps in the second loop and probably would not have been sore the next day if I had been taking my elyte capsules throughout the day. Note to self: use the capsules regardless of temperatures, and always fill water bottles with half Gatorade and half water. Or use Fizz electrolyte tabs in the water again: those worked well over the summer and I completely forgot to buy more. 

Tent
- Charles slept in the tent due to the fact that he snores when face-up (if he'd slept in one of the truck front seats) and he would have had to sleep in a fetal position if he'd been in the back seat. His knee is fine now, but he would not have been comfortable sleeping with bent knees all night. The tent itself wasn't the problem though: it was the air mattress. He got very cold while sleeping on it due to the air inside the mattress cooling. We will need a pad for sleeping in temps below 40 to substitute the air mattress, and sleeping bags rated for 0 degrees. (20 degree sleeping bags were not enough when we crewed for Liz at Fort Valley last year, where temps dropped into the teens overnight!) Several cold weather camping articles recommend having wool blankets as well. 

Nutrition
Lily
At the OD, Lily attacked her mashes with a vengeance and even had a fit when we wouldn't immediately give her one at one of the away vet checks. I was doing exactly what I did at this ride: 50/50 Triple Crown Senior and molassed beet pulp. At this ride, she was a little lackluster about them. She still ate them, but not with the previous enthusiasm. The ride management member who let us borrow her trailer for giving Lily IV fluids had recommended Fibergized: she still hadn't met a horse who would turn their nose up at it. Lily LOOOOVED it. I found a Pennfield dealer about 30 minutes away, so I plan to keep this as a backup feed for her.
Myself
Need to bring more stuff I can eat while moving around at the holds. I loved my pollo en escabeche, but it required a fork to eat. Liz's idea of making sandwich wraps that you can eat while packing saddle bags and changing tack is brilliant.



Thoughts

Electrolytes
I will share what Dr. K told me that I wanted to share with you guys. I checked in via e-mail with Dr. W re: elyte recommendations and she said to use Dr. K's; that's what she uses. Nick (not his real name), the ride vet whose wife I'm friends with, also goes by Dr. K's recommendations. So I have more than one source for finding out all of the details for you guys, but I'd like to get them from Dr. K himself. When I have ALL the details, I'll write about it in a separate post. You have all brought up some really good questions that I have had too, and that I still don't have the answers to.
Before I go on with the information I was given, I want to remind you guys:

  • Each horse is different.
  • Each electrolyte formula is different and it does not help that ingredient labels can be vastly different in the way they are written (% electrolytes/container or per lb, mg/lb, mg/serving, etc)
  • Climate, altitude, humidity, distance, terrain, speed, breed, diet, length of trailer ride to competition, horse's stress levels, water consumption, will all play a role in your horse's electrolyte requirements. Like Mel pointed out in the comments on my ride post, even if you figure out what works for your horse at this ride/this season/this year, it may change by the next ride/next season/next year/3 years from now. So do keep this in mind as well. 
  • You want to find a balance when electrolyting, as over-electrolyting can be just as bad (if not worse than) as under-electrolyting.

Recommendations I was given for Lily by both Dr. K and Dr. W:
1. Pre-load with electrolytes the week before the ride. 1 dose/day for 7 days. Mel also recommends making sure the horse receives plenty of forage in the form of grass and hay, as forage has the electrolytes a horse needs for performance. (The catch here is that not all hay is equal and hay can vary greatly in mineral content depending on region, soil, climate, time of baling, etc, etc, etc. If you want to know the mineral content of the hay you are feeding, getting it analyzed by a company like Dairy One will give you a solid answer. Since I have not had our hay analyzed, I added the daily oral electrolyte doses as well.) Why do you pre-load with electrolytes? Because the horse's gut has a tremendous capacity for storing them. Read more about this here. (This is one of the lectures Liz and I attended at Convention earlier this year; Mel has the best write-up of what was said.)
2. Give a dose of electrolytes:

  • the night before the ride
  • the morning of the ride
  • at each hold

This is the standard recommendation and a good one to start with if you are new to the sport and are figuring out what works best for your horse. It will most likely serve you well during long conditioning rides and LDs, though as stated previously, each horse's requirements will vary. You are more likely to run into electrolyting issues at longer distances.
3. Dr. K and Dr. W also recommended one dose of electrolytes per hour of riding.
4. If unable to give electrolytes while riding (carrying syringes of homemade elyte mixtures can be a very messy endeavor!) give 1 dose of electrolytes immediately upon arriving at the hold, 20 minutes into the hold, and immediately before leaving if this is a longer hold.
5. Do not wait more than 3 hours of performance before giving the horse its next electrolyte dose.
6. Identifying imbalances:

  • If the horse is not drinking, add more sodium (non-iodized salt) to the electrolyte solution you are using. (I don't know how much yet; I hope to be able to tell you guys.)
  • If the horse is drinking but is not hydrating well, add potassium (Nu-Salt or No-Salt). I double-checked my notes, and the specific directions I was given really were for Perform n' Win. Since electrolyte formulas will be different, these instructions will vary for each brand. So if using Perform n' Win, substitute 1/6th of your electrolyte dose for either of these two potassium salts. Administer as soon as possible,  and my understanding is that you continue giving this new mixture for the rest of the ride.
  • If the horse is not drinking nor eating and is getting dehydrated TELL THE VETS. This triple whammy of a problem will cause you THE MOST trouble if it continues for too long, especially if you are riding at 50+ mile distances. It is normal for some horses to not drink/eat for the first 15-20 miles of riding, especially if the weather is cool and/or the horse was hydrated properly prior to riding. Know your horse. Either do LDs before moving up to the longer distances or make sure you do longer training rides. Thanks to long training rides, I knew that Lily isn't keen on drinking for the first 18 miles of riding. So I give wet mashes at every opportunity prior to an 18+ mile ride.

7. Ideally give wet mashes prior to the ride, during the ride, and after the ride. Experiment with different grains to find something that your horse can't resist and will absolutely eat every time. Beet pulp-based grains are the best, as beet pulp helps keep water in the gut longer. I use Triple Crown Senior, as it is very low in starch and high in fiber. You can see the beet pulp in it, and normally Lily reacts to it as if crack had been added to it. :) I mix this grain 50/50 with molassed beet pulp (Lily hates unmolassed) for Lily's mashes. An excellent alternative is Pennfield's Fibergized. When Lily was lackadaisical about her mash while she was receiving fluids, we added a small scoop of Fibregized to it and she dug in. However, feel free to use whatever your horse prefers. I have seen mashes made with beet pulp and oats or even just sweet feed at rides.
8. Wet any and all hay given before, during and after the ride. Practice feeding wet hay to your horse before the ride. Most horses really do like wet hay, but just make sure yours will eat it beforehand.

For more info on some of the questions several of you had, I really recommend going through Mel's blog. It is a wealth of endurance information and she has most of her equine nutrition and hydration posts labeled. A great post to start with is this one. Do read the comments, too. There is even more information in there.

Boots
I want to try Renegades on Lily's fronts again, which will eventually mean buying a pair of used ones for her to wear all the way around. I'm hoping this will prevent the chafing incident from reoccurring because the captivators are slightly different from the Vipers'. I had never had this problem with the Vipers before and am still scratching my head about it. I'm still thinking about glue-ons for future competition. Maybe not all the way around...probably just on Lily's fronts and boots on the hinds, since I've overall had less issues with boots on her hind feet than on her fronts. (She does have wonky front feet: a clubbier LF and a flatter RF, and both front feet are very round.)

Lily
Every time I think of her and this ride, I can't help grinning. She had fun. She was a rockstar. She had no issue leading over 40+ miles of trail. She has always been a peculiar horse in the sense that she is submissive and she kind of used to choose to be at the bottom of the totem pole within the herd because she'd rather get along with others than fight with them. However, on the trail she has always enjoyed leading. She used to be timid on new trails by herself, but new trail + a buddy following her and she'd be a completely different horse: FORWARD, CONFIDENT, LEADER, BOSS MARE. I had never tested her leadership skills over such an enormous distance and she stepped right up to the plate: the only time she asked Q to lead was on the first mountain climb. That was it. We were behind other horses towards the end. Lily didn't care: she wanted to lead them too. She didn't argue with me for long nor act out, but if I had allowed it, she would happily have passed those other horses in front of us right away. Especially when we were climbing hills at the walk and when we were trotting and cantering around the hayfields.
Over the last year she has come to trust me enough that she is not timid anymore while alone on new trails and ever since that time where she spooked at the hole in the ground and I came off, she has become oh-so-careful about me on her back. We'll be cantering along on the trail and she might startle at something, and instead of doing a full-body dodge sideways, she'll just give a little hop and swing her legs sideways while keeping her body underneath me. If we're trotting along and she drops her head to look at something, she's very careful about keeping her withers up so as to not unbalance me. It's a really wonderful thing, and it has increased my own trust in her tenfold.
Lily encountered all sorts of funny-looking things on this ride, starting with piles of firewood covered with white Tyvek. She looked at the piles and didn't even falter. She didn't falter at any other unusual thing she saw either. Last year, Liz and her friends last year had issues with their horses at one of the river crossings on the 3rd loop due to a steep 1' drop into the water. When we neared it, Liz warned me that this was the crossing she had mentioned in her blog. I looked at it and said, "Lily will not have a problem with it." Indeed: Lily didn't even look at it. She just plunged into the water.
I just can't get over it:
I'm so freaking proud of this horse.

Photo by Michelle Mayer


15 comments:

  1. Doctah doctah! Fix mah horse! ...I predict saying that to you at least 1x next ride season...at a minimum. :-D You and all your insane knowledge being what it is. ;-)

    And yes. You have every reason to be so so so proud of that awesome mare! She's been such a doll for you and gives 110% and more when you need it.Such a wonderful girl.

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    1. You made me laugh Liz! I honestly feel like I don't know *anything* about the sport; I just try to read read read! :)

      She is the best. :D

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  2. I'm going to suggest that you get sleeping bags with ratings below zero degrees - ask me how I know:) My 0 degree bag was not sufficient without an extra blanket and lots of layers. For the girth issue - I've seen a lot of people recommend mohair girths. I'd been reluctant to try one because I haven't noticed any girth issues with Nimo and they don't come in the contour that I like from my County Logic girth. That said, I can see why they would be recommended, so if you haven't tried one and are interested, I found some that aren't too unreasonable at www.ridingwarehouse.com. I think I'm going to get one this winter to try, even if it is just to have a back-up.

    Thanks for the great write-up!

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    1. I'd read about the mohair girths and I have considered them, but for every 2 people that recommend them, it seems there's one person that hasn't had luck. I used them with my Paso back in PR and the second our rides started being over 2 hours long, I started having issues with galling. And he was not a sensitive-skinned horse. So that's why I'm a little leery of them. I honestly think the issue we had with the girths at this ride was due to a problem with the billet arrangement: the Alta is made to lie behind the shoulder blades and the way the billets lay (straight), they line up perfectly with Lily's girth area, so she still has plenty of room behind her elbows when the saddle is girthed up + the girth lies in the correct spot on her anatomy. The Wintec's billets don't lay that nicely due to their being in the point configuration, which means the girth ends up being too close behind Lily's elbow's or way too far back. It's odd. I'll play with Show Sheen and Body Glide on longer rides and see what happens. I'd love to avoid spending $200+ on a girth!

      Hahaha negative degree ratings for the sleeping bags it is! ;)

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    2. FWIW with my total lack of endurance experience: I use a mohair girth on Ruby and while it does a great job (the mohair does not irritate her skin) she still tends to gall in her armpit area about two inches in front of the girth. She just has a lot of wrinkles there. I've been show-sheening that area, which has negated the problem for now but I've also been considering a contoured girth for her.

      If you want to try out a mohair girth, I have a 26" that I'm not using - it might be too long for Lily though.

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    3. Thank you Melissa!! But yes, it's too long. Lily takes a 22" dressage girth. :)

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  3. I enjoy reading "what worked, what didn't" posts from rides, it always starts me thinking. Have you tried Body Glide? Gem's girth sits right behind her elbows and after trying anatomic shaped ones, fleece covers, short girth, long girth I finally just globbed Body Glide all over her arm pits and leading edge of the girth and after this ride she didn't have a single issue.

    I worry about over electrolyting coming from WI where a lot of people had issues in the cooler weather by giving too much. I generally pre load the week before, night before, morning of and at holds, but rarely travel with any on trail. For LDs it wasn't an issue - the loops weren't long enough. But on the 50 with 20 mile loops, I sure wished I had some at the 10 mile mark each time.

    Enjoy that wonderful mare! Gem is a snot and takes great pleasure in unseating me. Anyone who talks of a horse who tries hard to keep you up there is so very lucky.

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    1. No Body Glide yet, but I will definitely keep this in mind! Good to know that it helped you so much with Gem's girth issues.

      Over electrolyting can be worse than under electrolyting, so I totally understand your concerns. We rode a very humid 50 in mid-June over super rough terrain and I stopped giving electrolytes halfway through because I panicked over the lack of water on the third (before-last) loop (the story of the third loop of the OD 50 is here: http://waitingforthejump.blogspot.com/2014/06/the-old-dominion-50-iii-race.html). Looking back now, she probably had issues with recovering at the hold after the 3rd loop because of under-electrolyting, but it also could have been from the minimal water on trail. It's just so hard to know when there are so many variables.

      I've had Lily for just a little over 3 years now; all of the changes in her personality have come about over the last year or so. Prior to that she was a spooky, insecure, herd-bound nervous wreck of a horse that I almost sold TWICE. I used to be terrified of leaving the arena with her because she could be so unpredictable, and she had the nastiest buck I've ever ridden. She has always been extremely athletic... It took a lot of courage, patience and praise to get her to start liking the trails, and taking her out of a stalled environment permanently to help de-fry her brain. ;) Her watching out for me and feeling like she actually enjoys carrying me around on our adventures has only come about in the last few months. It's been a truly epic change in her that I never thought would happen, which is why I cherish it so. Thank you. :)

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  4. WOW, this is amazingly comprehensive. What a pleasure to read.

    A tip for the future: buy a cheap reflecting emergency blanket and flip it upside down underneath the air mattress. That will reflect the cold of the ground back down and keep the air mattress from getting so cold. You can also add a wool blanket over that reflecting blanket as an extra layer.

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    1. This is a GREAT tip and one we hadn't thought of at all! Thank you thank you!

      Glad you enjoyed the post! :D

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  5. Hey lady. What an awesome ride and great feedback on your experience.

    Couple of thoughts:

    We have done a lot of 3-season and 4-season camping with and without air mattresses. You might find a thermal blanket (the kind with the heat reflective material on the inside) and lay that reflective side up between you and the air mattress. That way the blanket reflects the heat back up into the sleeping bag. The second thing about sleeping outdoors, is take off your clothes and get into the bag mostly naked, then add extra layers between you and the reflective blanket and extra blankets on top of you. This will keep you much warmer than going to bed in clothing. Keep your extra clothes in the bag with you so they will be warm and you can pull them on before getting out of your bag. Also, dogs are good for extra body warmth. I am going to research creating a portable cover for the bed of the truck, which if it works the way I think it will, I will share with you. That way you could throw a memory foam pad in the bed of the truck to sleep on, and completely bypass the tent.

    My second suggestion is to carry lightweight food to snack on while riding. I'm not talking about the gross sugary Gu stuff. I'm talking about food that will give you energy and stimulate your need to drink. We like peanut butter filled pretzels, beef jerky, dried apricots, mango, or cherries, and I don't know anything that I like better on the trail than a handful of ripe, green grapes. I know one of the reasons I have been testing the hydration pak is due to my struggling to drink while riding, unless the tube is right there. (Although, learning to drink while trotting has a learning curve, I've discovered. Coughing and spitting water while trotting is not fun).

    Finally, about Renegades versus Gloves. I haven't tried the Renegades, but I can tell you that once you have the fit worked out on the Easyboot gloves, they don't tear up the gaiters. I finally have four boots that fit Ashke's hooves correctly and I have put close to 300 miles on the front ones without losing a gaiter. I have put maybe 125 miles on the back boots and they are still in pristine condition. They are a pain in the butt to put on - requiring a rubber mallet to tap onto the hoof and set into place - but once they are fitted they don't move. In comparison, N has boots that are a bit big on Cali and they have torn up the gaiters, especially on the hind feet. Gloves should be a struggle to put on and take off. They are a pain in the butt, but once I really figured out the size, they have worked for us really well. Additionally, Gloves come in a wide size for horses with round feet. Ashke has .05W on the front (his feet are round) and 0.0 regulars on his hind feet. Yes, his hooves are small but very solid.

    You should be super proud of your mare! She did great for you and I am so happy that the two of you are so connected. There is nothing better than riding a horse that wants you with them.

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    1. I think we'll be combining your advice on the thermal blanket with Amanda's above: one blanket facing the mattress to reflect the cold away, and one facing upwards to reflect warmth back at us. Thank you for the tip! Brilliant!

      I've read about sleeping naked when it's cold, and that using a wool blanket next to the skin makes you even warmer. I will relay the info to Charles!

      Thank you for all of the food suggestions!!

      THANK YOU for telling me about the Gloves working out better for Ashke now that you've downsized! This was so good to know! I'll re-measure Lily and get my hands on a fit kit over the winter!

      "There is nothing better than riding a horse that wants you with them" <- So, so very true!!

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  6. Im incredibly flattered by all the links and recommendations to my blog. :3.

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    1. Prior to my first 50, I read and re-read as much as I could on what you'd written on nutrition and hydration of the endurance horse. You know so much between experience and vet school, and I love your conservative approach to things. Your blog has been so influential, and it really is my #1 source of information. I forgot to add that I bought one of those rider card holders after reading your post on things under $25...and it made life SO MUCH easier! No more having to keep track of the card!

      Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us!

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  7. This is such a great post. I love how you share everything you learn. Also the pictures are amazing. I love your blue gear. :-D

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