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

Monday, April 20, 2015

Foxcatcher Review

What Worked:

1. Thinline Ultra pad. Yup, this is so "yesterday" when it comes to saddle pad trends, but I didn't have $200 lying around to spend on the Ogilvy Gummy Pad I really would have preferred to experiment with. Lily had some heat friction issues at Fort Valley which left some permanent white hairs under her saddle area. :( I have a lovely Woolback Matrix pad that works wonderfully with my Alta Escuela on Lily, but it totally alters the fit of the Wintec I use for competition, making it too tight. The Wintec fits perfectly on her bare back. So at Fort Valley I simply used a thin wool felt-lined pad under the Wintec which happened to shift around a lot during our first 2 loops (the pad shifted, not the saddle; it kept scootching forward). I swapped it out for a regular AP cotton pad for the third loop but the damage was already done, I think. She wasn't back sore at all afterwards but her skin was flaky under the saddle area 48 hours after the the ride, and then the white hairs appeared in those areas as her winter coat grew in. I added the Thinline for this ride (placed between saddle and AP cotton pad) in the hopes that it would help in this department and despite disbelief over their claims (I mean, how is that nonporous neoprene-like material supposed to be breathable??) it seems to have actually done what it promised, at least over the shorter distance. She had no flakiness afterwards and it's been a week since the ride!
*Note: I still swapped pads at the vet check: she went out onto the second loop in a clean, dry cotton pad.

2. Mohair contoured girth. I got this one on Black Friday after my Woolback girth caused some girth area soreness when used with the Wintec during Fort Valley. It has an effect similar to the Total Saddle Fit girths, allowing me to place the Wintec in the correct spot on Lily's back while still giving her plenty of elbow room. (I opted for a 22" girth, which means the contoured portion of the girth falls right where it needs to: behind her elbows.) I don't think she would have been able to have her spurts of wonderful extended trot if it hadn't been for that girth! No galling and no soreness after the ride. I am a believer!

3. Easyboot Gloves. On this non-rocky, non-technical-footing ride, the Gloves performed like a dream. Only on Lily's fronts to protect them from the fine gravel of the roads, but they still stayed on like they are supposed to. Even when Lily jumped up from the water onto the top of that 10' bank. :) She wore a 0.5 regular on her larger RF and a size 0 on her LF.

4. Riding with a buddy. Lily did so well with Nimo! He was a great calming influence for her (as Q had been at previous rides!) and it was beyond awesome to ride with someone with as great of a sense of humor as Gail. It was like our third loop at the Fort Valley 50 with Liz, except for a full 25 miles! An extra perk of Foxcatcher is that they really take into consideration the calming effect that a horse's buddy has on the horse that is going through the vet check: they made a big effort to keep buddies together and other riders had no problem with allowing this to happen. Riding with a buddy worked for me too! Gail was wonderful company for this ride. I never thought I'd laugh so much at an endurance ride! :)

5.  The high line. I was very impressed by how calm she was on it and how quickly she figured it out. I actually liked her demeanor better on the high line than in an electric corral.

6. Premium Excel. She really, really liked this grain at the ride. It is by the Farmer's Co-op, a local feed store that makes their own feed, balanced to this region's soil.

Premium Excel has crimped oats and beet pulp as the first two ingredients.
I'm not a huge fan of feeding oats because of their high starch content, but these are crimped and softened to the point that they DON'T get passed through her manure, so she's getting all of the nutrition from them. Honestly at rides I don't care what she eats, I just want her to EAT. 
It was great to have an assortment of feeds (Triple Crown Senior, 10-10 Pellet (also from the Co-Op), as well as the Excel) to choose from. I made sure to give only grass hay (a timothy-orchard blend I purchased at the Co-Op) before and during the ride; I offered alfalfa after the last vet check. At Fort Valley I offered alfalfa at the beginning and it ended up being the only forage she ate during the entire ride: once she gets alfalfa, she refuses grass hay. I'm still wondering if that might have contributed to her crashing at the end of FV. For Foxcatcher I brought a bale of 2nd cut timothy/orchard grass hay from the Farmer's Co-Op, which is what she was offered before and during the ride.

7. Large storage box with Lily's coolers, sheets and Back on Track Pad. It was great to have an assortment of things to choose from for horse clothing, as she ended up wearing all of them. She wore her Thermomanager cooler/blanket the most, but when it was really windy and chilly after the ride, I eventually put her Schneider's cooler on (it has a neck cover) and sheet on over that to block out some of the wind.

Modeling the Thermomanager. I love that thing. It can be used as a blanket liner, cooler, or light stable blanket.
8. Back on Track Back Pad. OMG, I had put this in the storage box as a sort of afterthought "just in case" and then completely forgot to put in the surcingle it needed to hold it in place under a sheet/blanket. I actually haven't used this pad on Lily other than as a sort of extended saddle pad on rides during our second winter here, which was record-breaking cold. I had meant to also bring our BoT mini blanket for the humans to use and forgot to put it with our stuff in the rush to leave. We were trying to figure out who would use what to sleep (I asked for the truck the second night and gave Charles all of the warmest bedding for the tent). The one drawback of the truck is that cold somehow seeps in through the closed doors. At FV I woke up with frozen numb feet despite doubled wool socks, a comforter, a fleece blanket, and thick sheets, and I didn't want to repeat that. And then I remembered I had put this pad in the storage box with Lily's horse clothing! I wrapped it around my feet that night and my legs stayed comfortably warm. BoT is da bomb!

9. Charles. He has come SO far as the one-person crew for 2 riders: he crewed alone for Liz and me at Fort Valley in October last year, and he helped Mike crew for Liz at the Old Dominion in June last year. He did a stellar job at Foxcatcher, both taking care of the horses and helping speed us along through our vet checks, as well as taking care of us riders, especially in the mental aspect, which I think is even more important when you have two newish riders to the sport who would be stressing otherwise. He always keeps me laughing in our daily life together but he kept Gail and me in stitches pretty much the entire time we weren't on the horses. :) He always seems to be in the background in the telling of these rides, but IRL he is so very present.

Charles talking with Gail while hand-grazing Lily

What Needs Improvement:

1. My electrolyting. I sound like a broken record. I completely forgot my elyte capsules this time around, but I tried to make up for it by combining water and Gatorade 50/50 in my water bottles. It did not help. I didn't get cramping after the ride but my calves were so, so sore afterwards that going up and down stairs was excruciatingly painful for the first 48 hours after the ride. The soreness didn't completely resolve until Thursday! I've never been so sore for so long after a ride, not even after our two 50s last year. I think all the cantering was a factor but I think if I'd elyted better myself, this would not have been an issue. My favorite electrolyte so far has been Hammer's Endurolytes Fizz. They come in tablets that dissolve in water, giving it a slightly carbonated, tart taste. I like them even better than Gatorade. I just have a really hard time downing the capsules while riding: it's a PITA to get them out of the saddle bag, out of the Ziploc bag I put them in, and then having to take a swig of water to swallow them. This is not a problem while on the go on my own two feet, but it takes both hands while riding.

2. Lily's electrolyting. While she did better this time around than at our two 50's, I'm not sure she would have recovered easily at the end of the ride with the protocol I used if this had been another 50. What I did:
- Pre-loaded with electrolytes for 7 days prior to the ride. Lily received 2 scoops of Perform n' Win in a 60 ml syringe of water once a day for those 7 days.
- Friday: 2 scoops Perform n' Win before the trailer ride to Fair Hill; 2 scoops Perform n' Win before our short ride; 2 scoops Perform n' Win at bedtime.
- Saturday: 2 scoops Perform n' Win at 5:00 am; 3 scoops Perform n' Win and 1 scoop NuSalt (potassium chloride) before tacking up; 2 scoops Perform n' Win upon arrival at vet check; 3 scoops Perform n' Win and 1 scoop NuSalt before leaving for second loop; 2 scoops Perform n' Win after final vet check.
She recovered great, but I was a little concerned at the end that it took her almost 15 minutes to fully pulse down from 64 to 60 after arriving in ride camp, despite having walked almost the full last 3 miles home. She was worrying about Nimo staying behind her at the check which could account for the heart rate, but I still felt like there was no reason why she shouldn't have had all As on her final vet scores. The fact that she had Bs for skin tenting and gut sounds tells me that I still need to do more. This was a cool weather ride, with the high for the day being 66 but a wind chill of 55 thanks to the constantly blowing 15 mph breeze, which is why I didn't electrolyte as aggressively as originally recommended by Dr. K. I can bump her up to 3 scoops of Perform n' Win for all elyte doses at cool weather rides (for warm rides I need to bump her up to 6 scoops per Dr. K's recommendations), and I can also add more potassium. Potassium frightens me because it is one of the Important Electrolytes that can cause Major Problems if given in excess. At one point during the ride I told Charles, "I have never given her so much electrolytes!" He said, "Well, she seems to be doing fine and it's not like you're giving her straight potassium." Remember he works in the human ER. "I actually AM," I responded, as I was preparing the extra syringe with NuSalt for the vet check. So yeah.
To review what I was told at FV, the point of adding potassium to a horse's elyte regime is to help the water the horse is drinking get driven from the gut into the surrounding tissues, as excessive sweating can deplete a horse's (and a human's!) potassium stores. Here is a pretty good explanation in laymen's terms as it applies to human exercising. As noted at the end of that article, you still want to be careful about giving too much potassium because just like not enough can cause arrhythmias, so can giving too much! Too much potassium can be just as life-threatening as too little.
Aarene over at Haiku Farms wrote an awesome post on her electrolyte regime for Fiddle, which I think is what Lily's will ultimately look like too, especially at hotter rides.
And after reading the Jillian Michael's article, maybe I should bring some bananas for myself for the next ride...hmmmm...It's funny how we remember all of these things for our horses but forget that it applies to us too!

3. My eating!!! I craved protein at the check and only ate a Power Bar. There was no excuse: we had brought turkey, cheese and tortillas so I could make a wrap at the check, which is easy to eat on the go. Eat more protein! I must tell Charles to feed me more protein!

4. Lily needs to be conditioned to accept syringing and I need to add something tasty to her electrolytes. By the end of this ride she was so done with me offering her syringes of anything. :/ She does not like applesauce and is meh about molasses added to her elytes. Suggestions?? I've tried conditioning her with just applesauce and molasses, and also molasses diluted with water, but this is not tasty enough for her.

5. I'd like to add a gastric protectant like Pro CMC to her ride regime. I've been wondering if her occasionally being so picky about food might be related to ulcery flare-ups. She lives on UGard but I don't add it to her ride meals because she can be so picky as it is. I think she needs something for these occasions.

*A week after the ride she seems to have dropped some weight while on the combination of Premium Excel + 10-10 Pellet, so we will be moving on from this feed back onto something else that is still high in fat but lower in starch. I love supporting local farmers and grain mills like the Farmer's Co-Op, but this is the third time that Lily drops weight while on one or more of their products, so we will be discontinuing them for good after this bag of feed is gone. Gracie gets their Fortify ration balancer and is doing great on it but their products just don't seem to work for Lily. :( Pro CMC will definitely be added to the ride regime, and she's going to start getting a pre and probiotic with her grain meals. A round of GastroGard might be in order too...Which also might need to be added to our pre-ride routine. Live and learn. 

General ride review

I loved Foxcatcher. For all the bad rap it gets due to racing, it is a really wonderful ride, especially if you have a well-conditioned horse that is used to trail obstacles like bridges and tunnels, and doesn't mind being passed by other horses at speed in wide open spaces. If your horse has issues with any of those things, this might not be the ride for you.

  • Waiting to start was an excellent idea and it was great to see that we weren't the only people thinking this way. Well worth the extra 10 minutes to head out, as we more than made up for it later.
  • Really LOVED the markers letting riders know when they were a mile out from ride camp. Why can't all rides have these?
  • The free food after the ride was amazing and completely unexpected.
  • While I missed not having the big awards dinner afterwards since we were spending the night anyway, it was great that riders could pick up their completion awards and vet cards shortly after finishing, especially since the LD ended at 1:00 pm. Ride camp was open until Monday, but only a handful of us remained on Saturday night.
  • The way ride camp was set up, it felt a lot more intimate than the two Old Dominion rides I've been to so far. It gave the sensation that it was a smaller ride, though it had just as many entries. I loved our spot between the two trees. 
  • While we didn't need a lot from ride management personally, they seemed to all be on the same page and responded promptly to any emergencies. The times I did have questions, they were welcoming and happy to answer my queries or guide me to the person who would be able to answer said questions.
  • My main complaints were: very few porta-potties, and only one main water station for the horses. The Old Dominion Rides and Ride Between the Rivers had water stations spread throughout camp, which made it easy to refill water buckets for the horses. The other complaint was with one of the vendors. Taylored Tack was there, which was awesome. I love their tack! No complaints there whatsoever! For other needs though, there was one other woman with a camper who had more of the day-to-day items like syringes. She was quite rude when I tried to buy syringes from her. I did not have the foresight to bring cash, which was probably a "duh!" moment (I just don't usually carry cash, period), but when I tried to buy syringes with a card, she simply said she didn't take cards...she didn't say anything about checks, which I did have with me. I was so annoyed by the way she responded that I didn't even think at the time to ask if she might take checks. After the ride I inquired if she might have poultice and again she was very rude. I don't know if it was just the way she is but I was offended both times, and it takes a lot to make me feel that way. I go out of my way to be nice to people and ask politely and her behavior towards me was completely unwarranted both times, especially given how kind people in this region usually are as a whole. She lost a possible customer with me for good. Later Gail and I discovered that there was a small tack shop down the street from the Fair Hill grounds. Now we know for the future! I missed having access to Running Bear at this ride. They are sponsors for Foxcatcher and tend to carry everything you could possibly need; I had been hoping they would be there. Teddy is wonderful to work with. 

I wanted to link to some noteworthy photos taken by the professional photographer at Foxcatcher because they tell so much more of the story of the ride! Note that all of these horses are in great physical condition: not one of them looks skinny or underweight, which I think is wonderful for this sport.
  • Here is an example of ride start craziness. I can't even. There is a whole series of that guy and his horse. I initially thought the reins had fallen off over the horse's head, but they didn't... I don't understand...
  • This guy and his horse look so relaxed. Love seeing relationships like this. Note the rope halter!! They were front runners. 
  • One horse in full Western tack, both horses and riders in the photo looking like they're having a blast!
  • Sproing!  The bay in the orange tack does a very bouncy canter through this series of photos. 
  • This gorgeous Appy was an even bigger star around ride camp than Nimo himself. He was 17 hh and FLASHY!
  • See the guy on the Rocky Mountain horse? Now look at the woman on the gray next to him and admire the tack she has on her horse. She wins at endurance! She did the whole LD like that!!! Proof
  • This mare is a full-blooded Percheron that has been doing LDs successfully for a long, long time! :)
  • This looks like another Rocky Mountain Horse. I love his rider's huge grin!
  • These horses and riders look like FEI level riders. So at ease! Note that they are not carrying saddle bags. This was at the end of the first loop for the LDs, but some of the 50s were coming in through here as well; I don't know which distance they were in. They look like they were just warming up here. :)
  • Compare this horse to this one. Isn't the difference between them amazing? The woman on the heavier-built Arab rode with us towards the end of the first loop. Gail wrote about her in her post; it's thanks to her and her horse that Nimo gave Gail that glorious canter! Her horse could have been an Arab cross but he looked so much like Shagya...I've never seen an Arab IRL look so much like a Shagya! And I forgot to ask her what he was...Here is a photo of her riding with us. :)

It was a great, great ride!


  1. I use the ProCMC as the base for syringed electrolytes. Mimi has always hated being syringed, but the combo of ProCMC + agave nectar + e'lyte (EnduraMax) is palatable to her, and then I syringe her from the "off" side -- if you approach her with the syringe from the near side, she wigs out and slings her head around...conditioned response from an early-on hatred of being syringed. But pleasant and quiet from the off side with that particular combo...and it was the agave nectar that did it, because she really loves that, and is meh about applesauce and molasses.

    1. Good to know! I never would have thought of agave; will definitely try it! Mimi and Lily seem to have so much in common! :) Lily is the same about being approached on the near side with syringes too.

  2. Oops, forgot to add: Love your ride photos...you guys look great! And that looks like a fabulous ride!

  3. The bouncy horse in the orange tack is my friend, Pam! The one riding with her (blaze) is Remi. He and his rider, Char, are the ones Ozzy and I rode with when we won the LD at Western Maine Pioneer a few years ago! The two of them are the best.

    I'm also curious about which vendor was rude to you. I have my suspicions... message me!

    1. It's always awesome to put faces to the names in stories! :D

      PM'd you. :)

  4. I love reading about your rides! Sounds like so much FUN!

    1. They are! I'm really looking forward to seeing you at one!! :D

  5. Have you tried honey? Mary will heat up honey (if camping you can do a hot water bath for the honey bottle) and put it in a syringe and give it to the horses straight before and/or after she e-lytes them. Warm honey syringes very easily. It's super sweet and delectable, too! I can't see how Lily could dislike it!

    1. I've tried it over medicines she didn't like, like bute powder, when adding it to her grain in the past and she wasn't particularly more partial to it than molasses, but I can try the warm honey in the syringe. I don't see why she wouldn't like it without the nasty meds! ;) Thank you for the tip!

  6. sounds like an awesome ride all around!

  7. I'm glad the thinline pad worked for you. I may have to reconsider using mine now:) I don't like that it isn't contoured because Nimo has so much arc in his back, but maybe I could do a cutout... And yes to human and horse buddies - they are the BEST! For the e-lytes, could you mix them with a small mash of horse crack that is reserved just for e-lytes? I'm thinking of a feed with more molasses or grain that Lily really loves. I know it probably wouldn't work during the ride but maybe at camp and the holds? Did the vet have any suggestions on improving gut sounds and skin tenting? I thought Lily drank really well, but maybe some kind of salty cookie (I've seen recipes on the AERC FB page) during the ride? What amazes me is despite how fast I thought our pace was, we still only finished with 15 minutes to spare.

    1. I've sadly tried the horse crack + supps/elytes/meds she didn't like in the past and she has caught on to that trick. *sigh* She won't touch the selected crack food ever again, which makes it especially interesting if you happened to buy a whole bag of feed for it. I wish Stud Muffins came in liquid form...it's why I figured she would love molasses but it's not enticing enough.

      I honestly didn't even think to ask the vet this time around! The vet didn't seem concerned at all, but I wanted her to be perfect over the shorter distance. I think gut sounds could be improved with more eating, but when she gets into that go-go-go mentality, it can be hard to get her to stop and eat. The salt cookie idea is brilliant and I have a recipe that a wonderful reader sent me last year. I need to bite the bullet and MAKE the cookies! But good to know that the AERC FB has more recipes to try! I think I've been afraid of that because she can also turn her nose up at salty things. I used to be able to add salt to her grain (1 tbsp/meal, as she would not eat any more than that) and she eventually started refusing the grain altogether. I'd like to carry Stud Muffins in my bag, as she will NOT say no to them, and get her used to carrots and apples while on the trail as well. I think it will help with the gut sounds if she can eat better while on trail. And I think bumping up her elytes + slightly increased potassium will help with the skin tenting, as long as there is as much water available as at this ride!

      Re: pace - I know! I'm glad we started out both loops with the pace we did! Of course we basically walked the last 3 miles of the second loop, but it was nice to be able to do that, you know? :)

  8. As someone who knows nothing about distance riding, this was really interesting. Thanks for the wrap up. :-)

  9. Just wanted to comment on your Thinline. I'm 'old school' like that too, and use mine daily. My saddle fitter actually prefers Thinlines VASTLY to any of the gummy pads, and she's not the first fitter I've heard say that. Sometimes old school is a good thing!

    1. This was SO GOOD to hear Lauren!!! Thank you! I've kept on using it in training rides and continue to be very happy with it.

  10. C rocks!! And he should wear his hat for the sexiness factor!!

    I'm glad I get to learn from you what works and what does not. And I hope that you can implement some of my suggestions to keep yourself warm going forward.

    I really hope that Lily likes the new feed. It sucks when they suddenly don't want to eat what they've been eating.

    1. Ah the hat arrived after this ride, but it will be worn at future rides for sure! ;D It is incredibly sexy and has the added bonus of protecting his ears and the back of his neck, which always got sunburned in the warmer months with his fair skin.

      I hope some of this is useful for you in the future. :) And yes, I plan to implement as many of your suggestions as possible so we can stay at warm while camping in the near future!

      So far so good on the new feed! *KNOCKING ON WOOD 8 MILLION TIMES!* She especially loves it in mash form, which is a relief. Though she used to love the TC Senior that much too...maybe she just likes variety, but it can get so frustrating constantly trying to find something new that is high fat, low starch, without too much rice bran or oats or molasses or or or...blegh

  11. Electrolyting sounds so complicated...I'm glad there are so many bloggers out there (like you) that share what works (or didn't) for them! I'm going to have to learn as much as I can if I have any hopes of getting my guys to complete rides here in the balmy self :-/

    1. South - that's supposed to say "south" lol

    2. Don't be too intimidated though! :) Take notes and have salt, NuSalt and a good electrolyte with you, but your guys may do just fine with minimal electrolyting. Gail does minimal elyting with Nimo and he's a big, black non-Arab that so far has done really well with Gail's approach. (Read her review here: http://fit2continue.blogspot.com/2015/04/foxcatcher-25-what-worked-and-what-didnt.html) Lily is kind of special because she used to have very low heat tolerance: when we lived in FL she would stop sweating entirely for 9 months out of the year. I had discarded this sport for her until we moved up here and she started sweating consistently, but despite the much more normal sweating I think her particular brand of metabolics still makes things a little more complicated than it would be with the average horse. I think you'll do great and am really looking forward to reading about your future ride adventures with Pokey and Justice!

  12. So much worked well for you! It's always a work in progress though. Sometimes I feel like I'd have done something wrong if I came back without anything to work on... or maybe that's just what it feels like to win Gold at the Olympics :D

    1. Hahaha that is so true Tracy! I totally agree! :D