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

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Sugarloaf Mountain with Gail

Last weekend we returned to Sugarloaf for the first time since moving to the current barn.

But first!

The hubs and I had gone whitewater tubing the day prior (Saturday) with some of his coworkers from his ER department. We had SO MUCH FUN.

Last time we did this, it was with a group of ER vet techs. It is only fitting that now we do it with a group of ER nurses.
Yes, my husband is a murse.
Ready to go!
The catch was that the water level was especially low for the summer, which meant that the current was slow but every single rock in the river was exposed. Hilarity ensued when some of the members of our group tried to just sit back and enjoy coasting down the river, letting the current do its thing. The problem is that the current will sometimes take you right to a cluster of rocks, where your inner tube might get stuck hard enough to cause deflation. Which will lead to this happening:

Lots of tube sharing, which didn't exactly go well most of the time.
It basically took us over 4 hours to get down to the pickup point in the river (where our outfitter was waiting for us with a bus), but part of it was that we also stopped at every large rock outcropping in the river to wait for other members of our group of 8 to catch up and have a snack or a drink or both.
One of many breaks.
We tried to stick together for as long as possible, but lots of rocks = we didn't all fit at once through some of the narrow strips of water between them.
I adore this river.
The Potomac, as seen from the river itself, near Harpers Ferry, WV.
We made it safely back to our cars, if a little battered (several of Charles's coworkers had bruises and scrapes from the rocks and one of them ended up with a broken pinkie finger...) and sunburned , and met up at a great pizza place in Frederick for an early dinner, since we were all starving. My body ached the next day from navigating around the rocks in the river (Charles declared that if our river excursion had been the Hunger Games, I would have won. YES!) but my abs hurt from laughing and laughing and laughing. Nothing like a great group of ER peeps, be it from the human or veterinary side or both, to have the best time ever!

The next morning we got up at 7:00 am to go do another marathon ride, this time on horseback. :) Both of these events had been planned far in advance back-to-back. Yes we are crazy.

At the barn we rushed to get everything in the trailer, which meant Charles forgot Gracie's breastplate and I only shoved one boot on Lily (she has an abscess on her left hind heel that is healing and I wanted to make sure it was protected) before saying, "Fuck it" and loading the horses up and heading out. There would have been more careful preparation involved but Sugarloaf is much closer to us now than it was at the stallion barn, so off we went.

Our timing was perfect because we arrived exactly at the same time as Gail. Even with all of us feeding the horses hay and mashes prior, everyone else was ready before I finished trimming, applying mueller tape, and booting Lily's remaining 3 hooves. Which meant it took me an hour to get my horse ready, because I hadn't really booted her all around since...Fort Valley last October! Whoops...

We had chosen a really lovely day to trail ride. It was sunny with 0% chance of rain with low humidity and temps in the upper 70s-low 80s. A cool breeze made its way through the trees, making it feel like we were in AC when in the shade.

Road towards the Yellow Trail (horse trail)
Soybean field next to the road.
When we had first planned this ride, we had originally wanted to do the horse trail (which is about 7 miles) twice for a total of 14 miles. I was still up for this if Gail felt Nimo was ready. Gail was game though she would still be happy if it was only 10 miles, which we were also fine with. We decided to play it by ear and see how both the horses and ourselves felt after the first loop.

Lily and Gracie took turns leading during the first loop. Lily was a rock star about drinking from pretty much every single water crossing. Not just tiny sips but big gulps of water. Each time we waited until she was finished before continuing on our way.

Somehow, despite having ridden here 2-3 times already, we had managed to forget how rocky some portions of this trail are. I remembered the long stretch at the beginning (almost 2 miles) and another stretch around the middle of the loop, but I had forgotten that the end of the loop is also rocky (duh, since it loops back to where it starts).

Climbing up the trail as it wound its way around rocks.
By the end of the first loop Nimo was telling Gail that he would like to wear his boots please. Since we were all feeling good otherwise, both horses and riders, we decided to stop at the trailers for a sort of mini  hold so the horses could eat and drink while Gail put Nimo's boots on. I unclipped the bits off of both girls' halter bridles so they could eat, but left the saddles on with loosened girths.

This would be Gracie's first time arriving at the trailer, taking a break, and then heading back out. She enjoyed the break, though she looked completely stunned when I went to slip the bit back in her mouth. Poor girl. She had a case of the afternoon doldrums heading back out but soon woke up after our first canter through the woods. Except Nimo also woke up and then wouldn't let Gracie pass. ;) It's a good exercise for her to realize that she won't always be able to pass the horse in front of her. And it is also a dose of her own medicine: Gracie is known for blocking horses behind her from passing, not by kicking or making faces, but by simply effectively moving over to prevent the horse behind her from going by. Now she knows what that feels like! Haha...

We did a lot more leapfrogging during this second loop than on the first one, since everyone knew the trail by then. Throughout the ride, each horse got to be in the middle, at the end or in the lead, and everyone kept their wits. All three of these guys get along really well and it is always extra fun to be on and around horses that have brains, are good with other horses, and are trail savvy. Yes: it is possible to have two mares and a gelding riding together with NO snarky faces or threats! ;)

On both loops we encountered plenty of hikers and dogs both on leash and off leash, but everyone was excellent about giving us the right of way and taking hold of their dogs. Everyone ooed and aahed over the pretty horses, since our group of three had something of every flavor: the big drafty-looking black baroque horse with the curly ears, the golden gaited creature with the flowing blonde mane, and the dainty dark TBish mare with the blue hooves.

The only thing we didn't get was a pic of all three of us riding together!

I asked Gail to get a pic of Charles and I riding together on our horses. I explained that I only had one pic of us on our horses, but the hubs had been bareback and judging by his expression in the photo, his balls hurt.

Case in point.
You don't really need to embiggen to see the body language...poor guy!
Which is why I never did use this one as a blog header.
(In his defense, this was his first time riding bareback and he chose to ride for over an hour because he was having fun. He didn't realize things were getting uncomfortable until asked to be still...)
(And yes, he is fully aware that I talked about sensitive body parts in a blog post and he thinks it is hilarious.)
So just in case: y'all are supposed to laugh. This is all meant to be funny.
Gail roared with laughter, and the conversation was all downhill from there.

Gail did a fantastic job of patiently getting a great shot of us together, which you will find in the blog header above. Here are the outtakes, because my husband has an attention span of exactly 0.8 seconds, which is not a long time to get the phone camera focused and hit the button.

It took him a minute to get Gracie to face the camera.
Guess what he was saying here.
Still slouching, though it's my favorite.
Not slouching but he stuck his leg out. Charles wth?
Here Lily decided we should go back on trail and had just bumped into Gracie. Note Gracie's look of indignation and Charles watching Lily to make sure she didn't try it again.
Gracie still looking offended and Charles looking at Gracie.
Everyone looks good, except for my fidgeting mare and Charles who forgot to grin.
He likes to pretend to be a serious person.
Thank you Gail for your patience with my circus troupe. :)

The rest of the loop flew by, as much as possible given the multiple times we slowed to a walk to negotiate rocks. Lily drank at every. single. stream. She also drank at puddles. She drank deeply. And she stayed quite peppy throughout this second loop. Once she was awake, Gracie was very game too.

There is a section of trail where it winds around the side of a hill. It is almost double track and cut into the rock, with carved ledges in the earth to create steps of sorts: it seems perfect for mountain biking. Lily and Gracie love taking this section at a canter because the steps allow them to bound up the hill with ease, so we did. Charles and I made it to the top of the hill and stopped, turned around and realized Nimo was not behind us. We waited a couple of minutes, expecting to see him trotting up the hill any second now, but he didn't materialize.

So we walked the girls back down the hill to make sure that Gail and Nimo were okay. They were: Nimo was just coming up at a walk. Sometimes he'll get motivated to trot up a hill if the horses in front are cantering but otherwise, he prefers to tackle hill climbs at a walk. He is a boss at trotting downhill though!

We continued on our way, with Nimo picking up a trot and maintaining it once he realized we were aiming for the trailers. We did some leap frogging at speed, where the horses all took turns passing one another while trotting. Gracie took the lead in this section, then suddenly halted and stood to the side of the trail. Lily was next in line, with Nimo behind her. We flew past G-Mare as I announced, "Gracie says, 'Someone else's turn to lead!'" That was exactly it: we trotted past and Gracie and Charles picked up the trot behind Nimo.

We walked the last mile back to the trailers, shaving about 10 minutes off the time from the first loop. We had a great time, except for the turtle incident, which we all felt pretty awful about. :( Gail was so upset we changed the subject to other things.

The horses all looked great at the trailers, and Lily's Gloves did an EXCELLENT job about staying on her feet! I didn't have to dismount a single time to replace them! Lily looked much better than the week before at Little Bennett, despite having done a good 6 additional miles this time.

Both mares turned their noses up at water offered. Gracie dug into her elyte mash and Lily again refused hers, despite not adding elytes to this final mash. I'm not sure why she is refusing it post-ride...it's the same stuff that she eagerly eats at home, same thing I offer when we initially unload after arriving. She did, however, dig into hay this time, so at least there was that. She also urinated and it looked concentrated (dark yellow), despite drinking constantly at every available water source on trail. Which tells me I was on the right track at Little Bennett when I decided to elyte her more, and also tells me we need to continue playing around with electrolytes...

I have been using Perform n' Win at the recommendation of Dr. Arthur King, the ride vet at Fort Valley last year that helped with Lily when she crashed and burned after completing. Despite eating and drinking on trail, Lily was insanely dehydrated by the end of the ride and the vets' conclusions were that she needed more potassium. Upon our arrival at the vet check, they could hear the water sloshing around in her gut but it wasn't making its way into her tissues. When she still wasn't eating or drinking and still hadn't fully recovered 2 hours after the ride, IV fluids with potassium were recommended and I went with the recommendation. Within another 2 hours after the fluids, Lily looked like a new horse.

Dr. King helped develop the Perform n' Win formula himself. Ever since then, I have been giving single doses the day before haul-out rides, before loading up, after unloading, and on this occasion, also at our mini hold, with a double or triple dose post-ride after returning home. Dr. King's recommendation was to give up to 3x dose on very humid days, at all intervals where you would usually electrolyte. So I'm still well below his maximum recommendation. I also need to stop being so afraid of potassium and be better about making NuSalt be 1/3 of all of Lily's elyte doses, also per his recommendations.

If that doesn't make a difference, I will experiment with Endura-Max, which Dr. King had also recommended as an alternative and it is also what Aarene uses with her big, dark, fast, non-Arab endurance mare Fiddle (seriously, go read that post if you have a non-Arab and have questions about electrolytes. It's awesome!) I had not tried Endura-Max because it is harsher on their mouths and stomachs, but I can certainly try using Pro CMC as a carrier for oral dosing with this particular electrolyte brand.

Gail and I had a conversation about body condition. People have been telling her that Nimo is too thin. We figured it is probably because he doesn't have a dressage booty at the moment; he has an endurance booty. You can't feel ribs on him. You have to press really hard to feel ribs on him, actually. I was telling her I have the opposite problem with Lily, and people will still say she is too thin: she develops a spectacular, muscular topline, shoulders and hindquarters, but in the process loses every ounce of fat on her body (GOD I wish I had that problem!...), which means her ribs will be visible in regular lighting.

Lily at the last trot-out of the Old Dominion 50.
You can see her ribs here but note that she is in no way emaciated...
Immediately after, with poulticed legs and stuffing her face in camp.
See? All muscle. She doesn't even have dents behind her shoulder blades: her whole back is filled in with muscle.
The only difference is the lighting.
The next morning.
Again, with this light you can see ribs. But note also the muscling of her hindquarters.
Also, I am incredibly skilled at taking photos of her that make her appear butt-high.
She is actually pretty level IRL.
Austen wrote an awesome post on feeding the Thoroughbred for long efforts, and I've decided to copy her. Lily is already on Tribute Kalm Ultra, which is 12% fat and very low starch. It is one of the highest fat grains on the market, that I know of. Lily currently will not eat ANY fat supplements. I have tried: rice bran oil (various brands, including Triple Crown, Animed, and McCauley's), Triple Crown rice bran pellets, Legends rice bran pellets, flax oil , Cocosoya, flax meal (Horse Tech's Nutraflax and Triple Crown's Omega Max), Animed Comega Supreme oil, the Farmer's Co-Op Hi-Fat, Low Carb supplement (20% fat), Healthy Glo Nuggets, Cool Calories, and even plain ole vegetable oil out of pure desperation (I know, there are better things out there but she didn't like ANY of them!) She didn't like vegetable oil either.

I had not tried protein, though, other than offering alfalfa, which she will scarf. Seeing as my alfalfa bales are gone (Lily consumed them during her stall rest from her most recent injury) and I haven't been able to buy alfalfa bales at local feed stores (only bagged forage, which she will not eat either. WHAT THE HELL MARE.) So crazy me, I bought a bag of Triple Crown 30% supplement and have added 2 lbs/day to Lily's grain. I'm afraid to tell you guys how much she likes it for fear of jinxing it, so I will say nothing.

These are her "before" pics:

Most awful conformation shot ever. But it shows her muscling in poor lighting...
(And again, butt-high...seriously, her hips are not taller than her withers!)
...and her muscling in ideal lighting.
Both photos taken on the same day!
(We don't tie to the hitching post anymore. There is a small loop of straw-colored baling twine that I attached to each beam of the hitching post. Both horses are tied to those baling twine loops. You can barely see it in these photos but that is what Lily is tied to. Yes we do learn from our mistakes...)
Hopefully in a month she is still eating this supplement and I can show you guys "after" pics. -_-

Anyway, we all loaded up the horses and went our separate ways. Once back at the barn, we unloaded the girls and immediately walked them over to the field waterer. Yup, they drank! They had baths and ate well afterwards.

And here are our stats for both loops:

First loop

First loop

Second loop

Second loop.  Compare to first: you can tell where the rocky parts are!

Another great day in the books. :) Despite the humans being insanely sore the next day!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

WW: A Tour of Our Favorite Town

As usual, not really wordless...

We have really fallen in love with the area we live in now. We love MD, but Frederick is just pure awesomeness. Have a photographic tour! A lot of these were taken during my mom's visit almost 3 weeks ago as we showed her the sights and discovered more new places in the process!

They sell some kick-ass local honey in this little store. We had never seen it prior, but we noticed it while giving my Mom the tour close to Sugarloaf.

With my mom next to a giant sunflower!
I don't think I would live in a blue house (I love the color, yes, but not THAT much...haha) but I just love the bones of this house. I mean, c'mon: it has a turret!
Some of the trim that isn't visible in this photo is a violent purple. Definitely eye-catching and unique!
A secret garden!
For all the West Coast readers: sorry, this is a mountain. ;) It is not a hill. It's not one of your tall snow-capped crags but I dare you to hike the trails going up it...they are just as rocky and have no switchbacks! None of the trails in this whole region have switchbacks. There is a reason why our Old Dominion ride in the Virginia mountains is called The Beast of the East, second only to the Tevis Cup in difficulty! ;P (Tevis, or the Western States Trail Ride, is held in Placer County in CA and is considered the most difficult endurance ride in the world.)
The mountains seen from Frederick are the Catoctin range, which are part of the foothills of the Appalachians.
The Appalachian mountain range of the US East Coast are among the oldest mountains in New World. They formed the central mountain range of Pangea, the great supercontinent before the continental drift.
These green mountains are as old as time. (Hint: The Appalachians are 4x older than the Rockies.)
Here is a great comparison between the Appalachians and the Rockies.

Trail on the same mountain as the picture above, Sugarloaf.
That ain't no "hill trail". I've hiked in the Rockies, both in Wyoming and in Lake Tahoe, CA.
The trails there were tamer than the majority of mountain trails I've done out here so far, both on horseback and on foot.

See that brick wall on the other side of the canal, with the door?...
...It's all painted!!! The bricks, the door, all of it!
So are the bricks on the bridge!

Frederick is considered the hipster city of MD.
Being yourself, being unique, is a big thing up here.
We saw a woman walking around downtown dressed as a pirate. I thought it was a costume until I realized, upon a closer look, that she was wearing ordinary clothes that were mixed and matched in such a way that  like a pirate. It was really awesome.

I love this building. I've featured it on the blog before.
A hand-painted canvas announces a record store.
Lots of little basement stores like this one!

Love the details above that alley entrance.
In the DC/VA/MD region, history is a big deal, and Frederick is no exception. Francis Scott Key, the man that wrote The Star Spangled Banner, was born in Frederick! He is honored throughout, with street names like Key Parkway and the local radio station Key 103. It's one of the things we love about living in this area: it has a story. Everything has a story.  People have their stories, and the ones that have lived here for a long time are always happy to share them. 
Reminds me of some of the architecture you see in Baltimore.

At The Delaplaine Art Center in downtown Frederick.

Loved this.
We walked around downtown on this day, the first Saturday of the month (which apparently is a big deal in downtown), and there was live music everywhere, both on the streets and inside some of the restaurants and bars.
There were shiny metallic beetles in these flowers...
Like this one.
They looked like little jewels.
Love the colors. Nothing is dull around here.
They sell All The Dog Stuff at this little store!

All the stone houses. This is a different one from the one in the previous photo.
Check out the awning.
See? Artsy. I'm not posting pics of the house this belongs to because it's REALLY unique and well, privacy. But trust me: you see some really cool, out-there home decoration around here!
My mom said it: "This area is so you two!"

Happy to be here!