Monday, April 28, 2014

Mission Accomplished!

All three of our Skito pads currently in action (ignoring the two retired ones) are looking a little long in the tooth - worn around the edges and on their second or third set of internal foam shims. I don't know when we acquired the Dryback Skito pad, but that became the firm favorite and as a result the underside "fluff" isn't anymore:

Poor Roo suffered the effects of this and finished up NV Derby much balder in the corresponding location than he had been before the ride (probably just as well we had to cancel 20 Mule Team 100 or he would have been down to skin):

Time to do something.

  • Inspect prices of replacement Skito Dryback... $295. Urk. Not going to happen right now.
  • Consider the barely-used, misshapen Coolback pad. Hmm, still misshapen and weird.
  • Inspect the other two Skitos... not really going to help, they are hardly what you'd consider "fluffy" on the underside either.

So I took another look at that Coolback. I owned one years ago that stood me in good stead for several years until I switched to a different saddle footprint. After moving away from short-at-the-sides and long-along-the-spine Bob Marshall treeless saddles, the elderly Coolback no longer fit my new saddle. So I bought a new Coolback to fit my new Sensation saddle. Spiffy and plush it was when it arrived. And then the center seam tore within a few uses. :(

I complained bitterly to Long Riders Gear who, bless them, had me send it back and sent me a replacement. The replacement looked fine when it arrived but within one washing there was something a bit funky about it. Within two washes it was so misshapen that it no longer sat under the saddle properly - to get the two sides to meet meant that the spine seam was totally crooked. It was all off-kilter and I stopped using it in disgust, too demoralised to complain a second time (more fool me).

But there it sat, all plush and unloved.


I looked at the underside of the Skito and a plan began to form. What if I took the two pads apart – in their current state, neither was useable – and spliced them together? Shouldn't be too hard, eh?

I started by ripping the Coolback apart. That took me all of about 15 minutes - just ran the seam ripper around the edge and voila - two pad's worth of fluffy undersides! How much do they charge for these things?!? Can you say "Rip off?".

And then I took a closer look at the inside of what I had. No wonder the pad was so misshapen - it was cut totally on the bias - that's to say that the direction of the fabric was diagonal to the direction of the pad, which meant that as it stretched, it would do so in bizarre directions. No kidding.

The pink line shows the centerline of the Coolback pad.
The grimy underside of the Skito shows the direction the fabric is supposed to go.

The Skito took a lot longer to take apart. A LOT longer. These things are *Fabricated*. For one thing, it had three seams along the back, gros-grain ribbon to reinforce certain seams (had to be removed without damage since I was going to reuse it), as well as a piece of trim that went all the way around the edge, which covered yet another seam where they'd serged the front and back together, and then the velcro billet straps were also sewn all the way through. A week later, I was still picking seams and liberally covered in horse hair.

Finally, I got it apart:

Taking a deep breath, and measuring twice to make sure I wasn't about to cut it out backwards (have done this twice before cutting out tights legs - you can only see if you really stare at them), I used the Skito underside as a pattern to cut out the new pad bottom (on the squiff, to follow the fabric direction).

(I was hoping to get two pad's worth out of this Coolback so I could perform the same surgery on my second-baldest pad, but alas, to get the fabric to be straight, I had to cut in such a way that there wasn't really enough leftover afterwards... unless I decide to patch the Skito. Have to take a look at what I've got and see if it can be done without leaving a nasty ridgey-seam that, given Roo's delicateness, would wear a hole in the his back in one ride).

My first problem was discovering that even my work-horse Juki sewing machine wasn't competent enough to sew through two layers of plush sheep fleece, so I had to sew the spine seam by hand. I hate hand-sewing anything. <sigh>

The next part was sewing the gros-grain ribbon along the spine to cover the edges of the two over-folded sides. I persuaded the sewing machine to cooperate provided I sewed each stitch by hand-cranking the wheel and moving the fabric along by hand, while wiggling the needle back into correct position - quicker than hand-sewing, but only marginally.

Around this time I realised with great cheer what the problem was. Most recently I'd been using the sewing machine for free-motion quilting (sliding the quilt around under the sewing machine to make swirly patterns) and, as such, the feed dogs (the teethy part that sticks up to grab the fabric and pull it along) were dropped down out of sight. No wonder it wouldn't feed the fabric properly. By the turn of a knob I was back in business. Yay.

After that, it was still a struggle to get the sewing machine to gobble along the seams, but at least it considered it instead of sulking.

Because sewing machines are temperamental by nature, it still ate a lot of stitching on the underside (the part you can't see, so don't know it's happening until the machine seizes up solid with a rather nasty noise), requiring patient thread-yanking from the entrails of the sewing machine with needle-nosed pliers and a headlight, more seam ripping, picking out pieces of thread from places they didn't belong, but I got it to sew the next few seams fairly quickly.

The pad has a peaked wither area (the front of the pad) so that required some fiddling to match and make sure I didn't mess up. And some giant safety pins came in handy to hold the pieces together. The Coolback fabric was stretchier than it's predecessor, so I still ended up trimming an inch or so off in places as stretched as we went along.

By 1 a.m.on Saturday night, I was on the edge trim - minimum problem there, if you discount having to sew it twice because I can't hold it in place and "sew nice" at the same time.

Around 1:30 a.m. I was sewing the velcro-along the foam-insert-pocket opening.

Around 1:45 a.m. I was unpicking that velcro after realising I'd just sewn two strips of loop-velcro against each other, instead of a strip of hook-velcro.

And by 2:30 a.m. I was resewing the velcro-billet straps back in place.

And then it was done. Woot!

It's not perfect, but given what I was working with, I'm pretty proud of myself for getting it done. The mistakes made won't impact the wearing and Roo shall have a plush fluffy pad to wear for NASTR 75 in four weeks' time:

Yay me.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Of New and Old - Dogs and Chooks and Cats

Yesterday pft finished planting Chili Dog's memorial chinese pistache tree - and it looks wonderful. Admittedly, Chili left us nearly a year ago, but things take time in our house. The pistache tree will glow in the fall and I'll be able to sit on my bed and put my socks on while zoning out, looking at it (I can already sit on my bed and put on my socks while zoning out, but don't have anything specific to look at so this will be a better excuse).

pft was appropriately abetted by Chili's successor, Finn Dog, who is always willing to help in any way he can. Other than his tendency to pick things up and take them off to his lair, Finn Dog has very little in common with Chili. He is pft's dog, for sure, is small enough to fit on the bed (albeit heavily when he lies on your legs or hogs the covers)(come to think of it, he always hogs the covers), and fluffy to hug and pat and scritchel. He is also blessed with an air dog nature - can leap and bounce without any interference from gravity. And he's a very happy dog. I still miss my Chili Dog all the time, but Finn is a good #2 option.

Our current chook quota (up until last weekend) was 8 - a flock of rooster + three free-roaming outdoor hens; and a flock of four closed-up, non-roaming hens. 

Two of the indoor hens are from the ill-fated attack last year, resulting in mother and hatching-eggs/chicks being decimated down to one healthy chick and its unhealthy, twisted-leg sibling. These two, Willy and Wonky were destined never to live a life of freedom - not least because Wonky moves around by slithering (although she does a fine job), can't perch and can't fly. 

I figured that if I had to keep "indoor chooks" (they live in the large chicken house next to the horse paddocks), I might as well also get some of the type of chooks that I love but can't usually keep because they get eaten rather quickly - cochins, frizzles, etc. To avoid predators, any outdoor free-roaming chooks need to rely on their quick-wits and flying ability to get up into the trees/up on the barn roof, etc. Predators visit with dismaying regularity once they realise there are two-legged snacks shuffling around in our yard - and large, bad-at-flying, non-jungle fowl-type chickens tend to not do well in this situation and become coyote meals within a matter of weeks. So Willy and Wonky have two cochins for friends. The biggest cochin is like a large fluffy basketball who is fun to pick up and carry around. Frizzles (aka chooks that look like feather dusters) are slated for future arrival, but all in good time.

The good thing about captive chooks is they only have limited places to lay eggs - and in a chook house I can actually find them. So for once we're getting a regular supply of about three eggs a day. The egg mountain is growing in the fridge - currently five dozen in there.

Lynn, who was surrogate mother to Willy and Wonky when we were on vacation last September, was terribly worried that Wonky would get picked on by the other chooks. As it turns out, Wonky's fine (if you ignore her tendency to get wrapped up in baling string, thereby hog-tying herself to parts of her enclosure), but I realised the other day that the aforementioned biggest cochin is pecking on Willy and so her current living situation isn't working. Currently I let her out every morning so that she can gradually integrate with the outdoor flock. She is sufficiently jungle-fowl alike that this should work out. This morning the rooster sidled up to her, amorously. She flew up on the fence, so has figured out escape tactics. It shouldn't be too long before she can live outdoor full-time.

Sebright hen, three peepers, and their new
in-the-process-of-hatching sibling 
The outdoor chooks, as mentioned, consist of the twins (identical chooks), a golden sebright hen, and an old english silver duckwing bantie rooster.  The rooster is a good guy - looks after his flocklet and has only committed one indiscretion attacking pft when we think he felt threatened by a sudden quick movement. Otherwise, he's very benign.

The outdoor chooks sleep up in a tree at night and for the last year or so, the three hens have been laying "somewhere" but I had never figured out where, so despite having chooks, we never got any eggs. And then about three weeks ago the golden sebright hen disappeared. We figured she'd come to a bad end - until we found her up in the hanging bucket (scene of the crime of Willy and Wonky's birth) sitting on 14 eggs. Excellent!

This last weekend, the first three peepers hatched out. Mother, peepers, and remaining eggs were moved to the chook crĂȘche (cage approx 24" W  x 24" H x 50" L). This keeps them safe while allowing the babbies to run about and commune with the outdoor flock. Which in turn means flock integration goes smoothly when the time comes for them to be let out into the world because they've been looking at each other through the wire for the last couple of months. 

This morning a fourth peeper was
hatching as I left for work. Too cool.

In the meantime, one of the twin hens decided she wanted to sit too. Unfortunately, she chose to do so on the hay trailer - on top of the continually diminishing hay bales. Last weekend she got moved to a small cage to keep her safe (the raccoon or skunk that patrols the barn would surely find her on the hay trailer sooner or later). Since she was only sitting on two eggs, I even had the bright idea to add a couple of cochin eggs to her pile - if she was going to spend the time sitting, she might as well do it for more than two and I'd get more cochins. Yay.

Apparently my "bright" idea wasn't... since the cochins never come anywhere near the rooster, unless they're blessed with immaculate conception, I doubt we'll be getting any cochin babies out of those unfertilized eggs. Not bright, me. So I gave them to Finn to eat this morning (after having spent two weeks under a warm chicken, it seemed the best place for them to go. He was pleased). I'm hoping her remaining two* eggs hurry up - think they have another week or so to cook - so I can just stuff them under the sebright and they can all be brought up together. 

(* Have a sneaking suspicion that one of these eggs might be a decoy that I also stole from the indoor chooks to encourage the outdoor chooks to continue laying in that location. As such, this hen might actually just be sitting on one viable egg. What a waste of time.)


All good things come to an end, and my favorite bed cat, Mumma Cat, is finally winding down and won't be with us too much longer. By our calculations, she's about 18-19 years old and up until last month was pretty sprightly. This last week she's really taken a downward turn so now all we can do is let her lie on us in bed and make her last few days as comfy as possible. I am very sad.

This morning she took a curious stroll outside. I'm not sure exactly what she had in mind, since she's mostly an indoor cat (bad hips) so seldom goes outside. She was wandering down the driveway and then looked like she was considering going in the culvert under the driveway (the culvert where the resident skunk hangs out). Bad idea. I blocked the entrance with a piece of wood and she sat there for a while. pft tells me that she finally came back inside the house in the afternoon. She's earned her right to do whatever she wants at this point (except for disappearing into the culvert... it's just a bad idea on so many levels).

Sunday, April 13, 2014

NV Derby at Washoe Lake

Things don't always work out how you planned them and that was definitely the case this March when pft's company unexpectedly laid him off after 14 years. Talk about knocking us back. The result has been a substantial scale-back in spending - we're OK for now, but don't know how long the situation will last.

My endurance riding plans for the year have been trimmed to the bare bones of attempting Triple Crown (NV Derby 50, NASTR 75, and Virginia City 100) with Roo, and persuading my Mumma to pay for a Tevis entry for Fergus and I as a Birthday/Christmas present. Everything else will have to wait - or result from extreme creativity on my part.

It's all good - we still live in the most wondrous place on earth and have plenty of things that don't cost extra money to entertain us (although, of course, as soon as you can't do something, you start to long to be able to do it.)

NV Derby at Washoe Lake
Part 1 of NASTR Triple Crown
5th April 2014

Getting There

As far as I'm concerned, the worst part of going to any ride is getting everything prepared ahead of time and getting it all in the truck and trailer. Once we're in the truck, driving down the road I can heave a big sigh of relief and enjoy the trip.

The second worst part of any ride is having to get up before dawn, become upright, clothed, coherent, and get the horse ready in time for the start. Once I'm on the horse and going along the trail, there's plenty of time for thoughts like "what was I thinking?", "why do I think this is a good hobby?", and the usual "I hurt already and we've only gone two miles".

Going to the NV Derby Ride at Washoe Lake was no different. Even when you think everything is packed, come Friday morning you realise only 20% of what should be in the trailer is actually in there and you've got hours of heavy lifting ahead of you. The good part was that pft was home to pack the trailer. The bad part is he doesn't really know what has to go in the trailer, so I have to continually re-inventory everything to figure out what still needs to go in.

Going up I-80 was especially fraught. Earlier in the week it was supposed to be clear on Friday. By Friday morning, the forecast was for "light rain" at home. "Light rain" at home at 2000' = snow over the pass. So that added to the already-present angst - we needed to get going as early as possible to beat the snow.

We didn't make it.

The higher we went, the more the weather deteriorated. When we were in Auburn, Funder who was an hour or so ahead of us txted to say that it was snowing lightly at Kingvale, but not sticking. I decided that driver-pft didn't need to know that, so kept quiet. Predictably, by the time we got up to Kingvale, not only was it snowing pretty hard, it was also sticking. Four cars ahead of us, we watched a CHP SUV pull in front of the line of cars, lights pulsing, and our hearts sank. We were convinced that he was about to instate chain controls (chains not being something we had with us) and we'd be four vehicles too late to get through.

As it turned out, I think he was just doing speed control - unnecessary, given that we were already all going slowly - and we never saw him again. At one point we overtook a snowplough, but he was going about 15 mph, so that wasn't outrageous.

Down into Truckee and suddenly we're bathed in bright sunshine and blue sky. That's better.

* * *

It's the little things in ridecamp. In the past, I'd already discovered the benefits of parking right across from a water trough (easy to fetch water). Unfortunately because of the configuration of all the other rigs, this time around we weren't able to reverse into our parking space - which meant carrying a couple of day's of horse manure balanced on a rake an extra 50' instead of being able to fling-in-place - a minor but nevertheless time-consuming effort. If it was just Roo, it wouldn't have been a problem, but we had Elephant along - and Elephant produces elephant-amounts of manure.

The great part, however, was that Crysta had snagged us all an excellent space across from the arena. The arena was critical - with the horses having not been ridden for a couple of weeks, and living in ankle deep slop, they'd need the space to stretch their legs, as well as roll off their coating of dried mud. And they obliged very nicely.

We cleaned the rest of the loose dirt off and went for a quick 20 minute ride to make sure my saddle was adjusted straight - I'd swapped the pommel bolster in my new Sensation for the very-slightly-larger-but-not-so's-a-normal-person-would-notice bolster from my old Sensation. Given my reluctance to remove the sheepskin from my saddle to get it in place, and the fact that everything is velcroed in there and thus all but impossible to "slide" the thing into place, I wasn't sure it was centered correctly. It was.

And then it began to snow again. Awk. Pones were inserted into their winter blankies, snug as bugs, and we bundled up for the ride meeting.

Next problem was Roo's feet. I'd done my pre-ride trim the previous weekend and - for reasons I'm unclear about - although I trimmed and boot-fitted his back feet very carefully, I apparently thought his front feet would be "fine". Perhaps I was wearing a paper bag on my head at the time because looking at them on Friday evening, they clearly weren't "fine" (and who balanced those feet, anyway?? you just can't get the help nowadays). Rasping by headlight resulted, and at least Roop was wearing his front boots by the time I struggled in the back door for my supper, puffing from the exertion (keeps you warm, right?).

Later in the evening, I hung out with Funder, Mel, and Aurora until they turned in. After that, I searched for both KT and Crysta and couldn't find them anywhere. I kept hearing elusive laughter, though, but never could figure out where it was coming from. It wasn't until I gave up and went back to my trailer (thinking that pft had gone to bed) that I found them all in there, partying.

* * *

Our alarm was set for 5:30 am, me naively thinking that would be more than ample time to get both Fergus and Roo booted and tacked up and we'd be ready by 6:45 - giving us the luxury of having time to drink hot chocolate and munch something for breakfast.


Remember the paragraph above, where I mention that the second worse part of the ride is having to be "upright, clothed, coherent, and get the horse ready in time for the start""? We're now a that part.

First I had to deal with mountain of elephant droppings. By the time I was done skipping both pones (and then reskipping because they seem to delight in pooping extra-lots as soon as you think you've cleared it all) and piling it into a small mountain behind the trailer, I already felt like I was running late. I'd decided to take some stress off pft by booting Fergus for him  - after all, I knew F's boots fit perfectly because I'd done a careful trim-n-boot-fit the previous weekend, right? Wrong. One of his front-boots had decided it wasn't even vaguely going to go on. To add to the fun, Fergus delights in leaning on you while you're putting his boots on (after removing another mountain of horse poop from his feet), then snatching his feet away and waving them around whenever you try to tighten the velcro straps on the gaiters - the straps that seemingly don't even vaguely join around his massive pasterns. I finally gave up in disgust and scuttled over to put Roo's back boots on - at least he's cooperative.

Back to Fergus, I rummaged through his box of boots in various states - from brand spanking new (will never get one of those on), to so-old-the-toes-aren't-there-any-more. I finally found a couple of boots that I thought would work - either a brand-new-with-power-strap 2.5 or an older size 2. Being a cold morning (yes, there was ice on the buckets), the brand-new boot was a non-starter, so I slapped the somewhat worn size 2 on and called it good. It's not like Fergus tends to lose boots anyway, so what the heck was I being so anal about?

Either way, by the time pft came out of the trailer, I was thoroughly flustered and hot and vowing that next time I'd put Fergus' boots on the night before. pft, it turned out, had just spent 20 minutes looking for an item of clothing that was in plain sight. So, yes, we were in good shape.

Tack got stuffed on ...thank goodness that doesn't require too much finessing - just get the pad pulled into the saddle gullet, tied to the saddle, then untie it again because you've inadvertently snagged the carabiner strap with the pad string and can't move it... retie... discover you've still snagged that strap, untie the string again, swear under your breath, etc, etc.... I look up and there's only pft and I left in camp. But we're good - our horses are ready, we're ready, Finn Dog has been walked around to perform and reinserted into the trailer.

Off we go, only about ten minutes after the official start time of 7 a.m. Pah. It's almost the same as being ready 15 minutes before.

Loop 1 

So now I'm on the horse, he's behaving beautifully as Roo does nowadays - more or less on a loose rein from the start, a little joggy now and again to keep up with Fergus. We climb the mammoth hill straight out of camp. My back and shoulder muscles are whining pathetically at the morning's abuse and I'm doing concentrated-relaxation of my body to try and straighten things out. pft asks if I'm OK and I tell him I'm settling myself down after the fraught morning.

Fergus and Roo aren't particularly well matched by any stretch of the imagination, pace-wise, but they're very used to travelling together (conditioning partners R us) and make do. Following in Fergus' wake (in the same way that happens if I ride with my friend Renee and her power-walker, Bite), Roop and I have to jog jog jog along behind, never getting a chance to walk. It means you cover ground quite well, but don't ever get to rest.

As often happens, to start with I worried a little about Roo because he seemed a tad sluggish, but I kept an eye on him and waited to see how he'd feel once he warmed up a little better.

We got off and hand-walked (or rather hand-slithered on the shale) down the long descent, passing a poor horse that was apparently suffering from a cramp and ended his day early, past the photographers, and along the south edge of the mountains.

And then we started to have fun.

Being faster, pft and Fergus were in front and pft was doing a most-excellent job of pacing us - following the rule "if you can trot, then do so. If you can't, walk until you can". Those two did such a good job and we soon started catching people. It's probably the best I've ever seen pft ride. He has a lot of theoretical knowledge about distance riding, but less hands-on experience, so I was very proud of how well he got us through the morning.

We caught and briefly passed Aurora and Scrappy until a pitstop at a water trough - after which we just kept seeing her "just ahead" for the rest of the loop.

Roo still seemed a little sluggish and was tending to canter to keep up a little too regularly for my taste, particularly when trotting up some of the long gradual grades. Fergus covers ground effortlessly, but I felt that Roo was perhaps working a little harder than I wanted him to at that stage in the ride, so had pft slow the pace a little. The riders we'd been catching pulled away from us.

Along the way, I pointed out the Virginia City 100 trail to pft (you never know when inspiration might strike).

Up through the mini-Bailey Canyon (a fixture of VC100)
Bailey Canyon takes an hour to get through,
not five minutes as this one does):

(I asked pft why he was looking at the ground in these last two photos and he said he was trying to do up his jacket and his zipper was stuck. It was like that all day - we wore tons of clothes and you were alternately too cold or too hot, zipping up, unzipping, taking things off, putting them back on again, depending on what the sun and wind were doing. And the result of so much sun and wind was that we both came home blistered, leathery, and a week later I'm sitting here writing this with a peely nose.)

And now we're going "up there" to the top:

This section of trail was the same as the first loop on the Washoe Valley Day 2 ride - except backwards. Fergus and I had the pleasure of doing that ride together, solo, a couple of years ago and, as often happens when you ride Fergus, I had one of those pure-joy, clear and clean heart experiences with him on this mountain. Love that horse.

At the top of the mountain, after some arm-waving "the VC100 loop 1 goes here ... and loop 2 goes there.... and Day 2 WV trail comes up there...." etc, we set off down the other side on a section of trail I'd not ridden before.

I love NV rides, but after a few years of doing both Washoe Valley and Virginia City I was pretty familiar with the trails they take us on, and one of the things I was excited about was that the "NV Derby at Washoe Lake"* would be using some trails we hadn't ridden before.

(* NV Derby is usually held over in Palomino Valley, NE of Reno, but the landowners for the ridecamp are in the process of selling, so the location wasn't available. This year, ride management for the early May, two-day Washoe Valley ride were taking a break, so it was decided to move the NV Derby ride to the Washoe Valley ride venue).

We dawdled on the downhill, taking in the views and were soon caught by the NV-Contingent of Carolyn Meier on Scoop, Dave Rabe and White Cloud, and Jen Massey with Willow. Roop has ridden with both of the latter horses in the past, so he was eager to keep them in his sight, so pushed past "slow poke" Fergus and scuttled after them. 

Roo doesn't like leading that much - he's an energy-preserver so on the whole leaves any extra-exertion to other horses, preferring to follow along behind them in his mellow way. But every so often he decides to make use of his leadership qualities (he's top of the herd at home) and get on with it. Coming down that hill, he decided it was time and started to accelerate. I figured he'd get past the gang of three and immediately lose interest and slow down again (always a slightly embarrassing thing to do), but for once he kept going, dragging poor pft and Fergus through the pine trees behind us. He was so enthusiastic, that we then passed the next horse in front of us before making a left turn on to the singletrack.

I think Dave Rabe marked this trail. I think it was him because it wasn't really a trail, per se, more like a "route". Fun! We put Fergus back in front (not being blessed with great twisty-trail-negotiating skills, it's safer for him to pick the pace on stuff like this) and proceeded up and down, twisting through the trees, back onto some doubletrack, then back onto some singletrack again (well, OK, via a few detours when we missed the more-than-adequately-marked trail turn-offs three times in a row).

Finally we were back on Jumbo Grade, Roop back in leader-mode, ignoring any drinking opportunities (drinking obviously for no-hoper horses), down across the paved highway, to the water troughs there (must ignore) - briefly saw KT and Kody leaving the troughs (and figured she was coming out on the next loop an hour ahead of us. Turns out she was just six minutes ahead of us) - and then back across the three miles of twisty sagebrush in the park. Had to ask pft to keep Fergus to a dull roar, since Roo and I were having to canter to keep up. We walked in the last quarter mile or so and I was delighted to find that, after giving in and taking a long drink, Roo was at criteria (60 bpm) when we came in. Because of the cold wind, I didn't want to sponge him to cool him down if I could help it, so I was quite happy.

7:00 a.m.
(well, 7:15 a.m. by the time we actually got to the start line)
25 miles 
PnRed at 11:36 a.m....
so 4:20 to go that distance - not bad us.

And here's an illustration about why, if you're hurrying (Tevis) or racing (uh...? yeah, right), riding with a second horse loses you time. Fergus always pulses quicker than Roo - always - but because of the PnR circumstances at the vet check, every time we PnRed, Fergus ended up officially a minute behind Roo. Not particularly important in this case, but noteworthy nevertheless.

Back at the trailer, the pones got their mush (I make up however many dry meals ahead of time the day before, then just dump the dry pan in their wet tubs, add a scoop of elytes, add water and let them at it) and we partook of the ride-provided burger lunch. I'd been a dismal failure in terms of having anything to eat before the ride (managed to stuff in most of a banana, and then was hungry for a couple of hours before we came in for lunch), and had nothing useful to eat in my saddle bags, despite having string cheese in the cooler (the string cheese came home with us and is back in the fridge), so I was pretty hungry by then.

Love my grubby pone

Surprisingly, everyone was still in camp - I thought they'd all be long-gone ahead of us. I think Crysta was 40 minutes ahead of us (Digs was power-napping when we got to the trailers), Funder 25 mins (?) ahead of us, and KT just six minutes ahead. KT said for sure that we'd catch up with her, no problem.

uh huh.

Loop 2 

Not entirely sure what we were doing when we were scheduled to leave, but by the time we'd rebridled, reattached breast collars, tightened cinches, attached various items of clothing we might need later if the sun went behind a cloud to our saddles, and made our way over to the out-timer, and then back to the out gate, we were 20 minutes past our out-time. Hey ho.

And we didn't exactly break any records going back across the park. Both Roo and Fergus were in mutiny. I suggested we trot since the footing was perfect and it was nice and level - neither of which it would be later on the loop. Roo and Fergus both acted drunk, and behaved as though there was a mysterious force-field sucking them towards the trailer (unfortunately positioned on the edge of camp, so we had to pass it as we were leaving). The result was trotting along on a totally loose rein, applying lots of left leg, and uttering "Aa!" loudly in sharp tones every time Roo drifted off the side of the trail (every third step).

My left leg began to get tired of being continually applied, so I resorted to the rommel. Every time he drifted to the left, I'd explete* the "Aa!" command and he'd get plopped on the left shoulder with the rommel. By the time we were about a third of the way across, it was starting to take effect - all that was needed was the "Aa!" to persuade him to go straight - but it wasn't having the desired "move forwards with impulsion" effect. Fergus was hanging back off our right flank, acting like a sea-anchor, and Roop wasn't going if Fergus didn't come too, and he was suspicious that Fergus was going to sneakily stop behind us if Roo didn't keep a careful eye on him.

(* not sure that "explete" is actually a verb, but it ought to be. It means 'to utter in a sharp, explosive way'. One expletes an expletive).

This was then coupled with the front-runners coming in on the final loop (coming in the opposite direction we were going out) - which obviously meant that Patrick and I were morons and we should immediately return to camp with the others.

We finally got them to the other end of the park, only to have the horses slow to a crawl on the slight uphill (honestly, it was hardly an uphill at all). I finally got tired of peddling and let them trudge for a while.

This "yellow" loop started the same way as Washoe Valley Ride, Day 1, Loop 2, and unfortunately both Roo and Fergus have done that loop before and knew what was ahead.

We managed one wrong turn where we took the "normal" trail down to the paved part of Jumbo Grade, but were able to find the trail again and continue to trudge. We dropped into some really fun twisty sagebrush, carefully spotting each successive yellow ribbon, but the pones continued to pout. Not a horse in sight obviously meant that this whole charade was just an exercise in stupidity.

And then Carolyn and Dave caught and passed us again. Yay! Roo was suddenly filled with enthusiasm and shot off after them, cantering the whups (note - this is very bad. Do not try this at home. It is an open invitation for a strained suspensory), and racing to keep up. It was both good and bad. Roo was all excited that he had a purpose in life and got a much-needed tow, but it soon became apparent that this would be short-lived.

We had reached the steep Sand Hill.

Scoop, Carolyn's horse, was on his home trail (and thinking he was headed home) and being a NV-horse he has drumsticks instead of back legs, so both he and White Cloud marched up that stupid Sand Hill like it wasn't there. To give Roo credit, he also did a very nice job of getting up there. It always works this way - about the time that I think Roo's not strong and shouldn't be doing endurance rides with too much elevation in them, he marches up some hill - perhaps not with the same forwardness as Scoop - but certainly with some degree of competence and surprises the heck out of me. He should have been a mare the way he sneakily conserves energy.

Fergus giving Patrick "The Look"

You can just see camp - lil' white dots to the left of the far end of the lake

Fergus was less than impressed by the hill - just how stupid did we think he was? This wasn't what he signed up for, etc...

We did finally make it to the top and both pones, having done a fine energy-conservation job, were in pretty good shape - no muscle quivering, no heaving sides - so we set off down the other side.

The trick to the downhill portion of this hill is to keep the horse upright. The backside of the hill is basically very deep, very fine sand. If you keep moving, you sort of swim through it with enough downhill momentum to keep you going. But that fine soft sand is irresistible to horses. In years gone by, we've lost Roo, Fergus, and Uno to the siren lure of the sand, necessitating lots of very emphatic "GET UP, YOU ARE NOT ROLLING NOW" encouragement.

We made it to the bottom without incident, but except for one fleeting glimpse, we never saw Scoop or White Cloud again. Roo and Fergus resumed their mutiny and we advanced very slowly up the next two climbs. I checked the GPS - it felt like we'd been on the trail for about 16 hours and had covered precisely five miles of the 18 mile loop. Not good.

If this were Washoe Valley Ride, Day 1, Loop 2, at this point we'd ordinarily split off to the right, head down to a delightfully green meadow where ride management had thoughtfully placed refreshments for riders and horses. But it wasn't. Instead we headed down a dirt road. A very LONG dirt road.

I pulled out the map. Allegedly, using my highly accurate thumb as a scale, we just needed to continue down this road for a little over three miles, around the hill, and we'd come to a water trough down at lake level. If we trotted it, we'd be there in 30 minutes. I looked at the dirt road - perfectly trottable, let's go.

Or not.

Roo was sort of willing, provided Fergus didn't trick him by not coming along. And Fergus was showing every sign of not joining us - hanging back, continuing to trudge, pretending he didn't understand the forward command. We made a half-hearted attempt at trotting and probably managed a half mile or so before we reached the excitement of the impromptu shooting range.

There were two guys apparently doing some sort of synchronized shooting activity. They almost looked like a marching band the way they moved. They'd run through their repertoire, shoot a target with a loud pop, followed by the strange rush of the recoil that rolled across the valley and echoed back from the mountainside.

Fergus' eyes got very big and he was suddenly quite interested in moving along snappily to get past them. Thankfully, they were out of ammunition by the time we got level with them, so we were able to scurry past without incident and it gave us a much needed speed boost.

Not a very long-lived speed boost, admittedly. Soon we were back to trudging and I gave up and got off. We led them down that stupid dirt road, pausing at regular intervals to let them snack on the bunches of green grass by the side of the trail in an effort to cheer them up. Patrick thought that Fergus was a little foot sore because he was most adamant about walking on the verge of the hard dirt road. Patrick also thought he was ailing in some way. I wasn't convinced, but then I wasn't the one riding him. It was hoped that when we reached the water trough and turned towards camp, they might perk up a little and then we'd know they were OK.

As it turns out, it's possible that Fergus did have a valid excuse for feeling foot-sore. At the end of the ride when I pulled his boots off, I discovered a layer of sand about 1/4" thick in the bottom of his boots. Not the most comfortable of padding - and some of it was hard-packed and concretey from getting wet.

I'm now considering ways to prevent this happening in the future. Roo, who did the same trail in boots, didn't have any sand to speak of, so it has to have something to do with boot fit and/or the way Fergus moves.

After another 17 hours of trudging, we got back on (riders we didn't know were behind us were sighted coming down the stupid dirt road behind us, We'd thought we were dead last) and peddled the horses a little more to get them going. And at last we arrived at the water trough.

And predictably all ailments vanished as the trail turned and aimed back towards camp. No drinking was necessary (considering we'd been moving at &lt;3 mph for the last three hours, and had just spent the last hour snacking on lush green grass, I wasn't surprised that they weren't thirsty), and Fergus - a minute or so previously, unable to make any forward progress, or understand simple directional instructions - shot off in the lead, with Roo and I flailing along behind him.

From looking at the map and hearing Crysta's description, I'd feared this next section as being long, flat, straight, and possibly dull. In the event, having taken about three hours to go the first 10 miles of the loop, it only took us one hour to do the last 8 miles. Those pones were ON.

They'd've probably trotted the entire way if we'd let them. Instead, we'd slow them periodically to inspect the yards of the houses we were passing along behind. The most exciting parts were the llama, the painted horses, the fjord with the really cool haircut, the exciting cut-out cow on the fence (Roo did not think that was a funny joke), the pieces of sagebrush hanging off the fence, and the culvert pipe.

There was, however, no buffalo (as promised by Crysta). Major swizzle.

I also broke out a packet of Gu chomps and we duly chomped our way through the packet. These things are magic upperers - munch the packet around the time you start to feel wilted and within 30 minutes you'll be cheery again.

The trail led back to the "Park" (a three-mile long rectangle of sagebrush intersected by multiple trails of varying sizes). We travelled along the inside of the dunes that flank Washoe Lake and got to some pretty deep stuff a couple of times. Fergus thought we should trot. We thought not.

A glimpse of the lake to the west of us.

In 2007, Roo and I did both days of Washoe Valley. Not far from the location pictured, half a mile before the finish on the second day, Roo spooked so hard that I got concussed hitting the ground - despite wearing a helmet - and couldn't figure out which direction the lake was in. 

On the last part of this loop, we noticed some of the riders behind us creeping up. We still had one more short 7-mile loop to complete, the hold at the vet check was just 15 minutes, and I was determined that we weren't going to be passed at this late stage just because we were too disorganized to get out on time (remember, we'd already lost around 35 minutes that way). Approaching camp, we planned our strategy. We hand-walked the horses in, I stood and let them get a good drink while pft took our vet cards to the in-timer. Then we scurried through the vet check (both horses down at criteria), and then stood and let them munch on hay next to the out-gate for the remaining ten minutes. Success. We made it out on time.

Loop 3 

For me, the objective of any endurance ride is:

  • to get through the ride with all our arms and legs still attached: 
    This part is always worrisome because my work schedule and my own stamina doesn't allow for as much conditioning as I'd like, so I need to take into account how much (or more usually, how little) fitness the horse has and therefore how speedily he can go down the trail. For this ride, I was relatively content with Roo's level of fitness for the pace we were going, but wasn't sure about Fergus.
  • to do better than we have in the past:
    This may mean going faster, or managing time better, or managing some aspect of the horse better, or managing myself better, or doing more of the trail on foot, or finishing with me or the horse looking better than in the past, or to pace better, or... you get the picture. For this particular ride, the objective was to make the ride enjoyable for Patrick, I wanted him to have a good time.
  • Towards the end of the ride, if applicable, try to place fifth from last:
    There's a lot of strategy goes into that placement. How many riders are behind us? Are any of them drag riders? Will the drag riders get completions? Are there any stragglers I don't know about who are still behind us? Are any of the riders behind us likely to put on a burst of speed and try and pass at this late stage? For this particular ride, I had my eye on three specific riders behind us - we needed to finish ahead of them.

Almost immediately after leaving camp, we were passed by the blur of Dave Rabe (Scoop unfortunately came up lame at the vet check, so Dave was now on a mission to ride the last few miles with another friend of his who was just ahead of us). That Dave really moves when he puts his mind to it. Behind him was another local rider who apparently didn't want to be out there any longer and was really motoring. And then a third rider rushed past us.

Since none of those riders were the ones I'd targeted to stay ahead, we were undaunted. Because we were once again heading north in the park, Fergus was rather concerned that we were going out on the yellow loop again, and was dragging a little, but he cheered up considerably when we turned west along the top edge. In fact, he cheered up so much that Roo and I were having difficulty keeping up.

I took over 50 photos of pft and Fergus.
He took two of me n Roop. This was one of them.

(note, we're about to be passed by two riders who wanted
to trot way faster than I was comfortable with at this late stage.
Paranoid R Us when it comes to the last couple of miles)

On the last stretch, we were passed by two riders - luckily not the targeted group - and then were a little alarmed when someone came cantering up behind us, but it turned out to be Zach out pre-riding . So we chit-chatted the last half mile or so until I realised that to finish fifth from last, Roo and I needed to get ahead of Fergus - and he's hard to stay ahead of. I kept getting Roo's shoulder ahead of Fergus' shoulder - and then realised that his head still wasn't ahead of Fergus' head. Plus Fergus was in Big TWH Walk by then, which requires a jog-trot-walk-scuttle to keep up with. Finally I settled on whipping out my rider card - I could thrust it into the hand of the finish timer, thus getting ahead of Patrick - hah. And it worked. 


We took the horses back to the trailer to give them a quick pan of mush and strip their tack. Roo had one last joke up his sleeve when he decided to hang his pulse at 80 bpm for his final vetting. Awk. He finally came down after a minute or so, but it scared me. After PnRing beautifully all day, I have no idea why that happened. The only things I could come up with were the eating, being miffed about being removed from the pan of mush, or the excitement of a synchronized trot-out with Fergus.

Right now I'm leaning towards the food part. In the past I've had problems with him pulsing down and wonder if that was because I let him eat as soon as we arrived at the vet check. For both the vet checks earlier in the day, I'd only allowed him to drink first and then pick at a few wisps of hay. I might have to give in and put a heart-rate monitor on him and see what's going on. And it may change the way I manage him at vet checks (I always feel so sorry for the horses who aren't allowed to eat when they arrive, though... :(   ).

Boy was I whupped after this ride - totally crashed when we were done. I was also a little too bleary to adequately concentrate on the awards, so I'm not actually sure if Roop n me did get our fifth from last - have to wait for the official ride results. I got the pones fed, got their boots off (thus discovering Fergus' sand collection), got their sockses on*, and bundled them up in their blankies.

* Equiflexsleeves are so lovely and easy to put on Roo. Plastic bag in hand to make his hoof slidy, he was sleeved in about six minutes. Fergus, OTOH, is very hard to do. He has enormous feet and I really struggled to pull the stretchy socks over both hoof and then fetlock. And once they were on, he insisted on waving his back legs around whenever I tried to pull them up. Luckily pft came out (prompted by my cross words with Fergus) and picked up a front foot so I could finish him up for the night. 

And then I got to lie down for about 15 minutes and stop for the first time since 5:30 that morning. Ahhhh. Bliss.

Post Ride


  • We both completed the first part of NASTR Triple Crown!
  • This 2014 NV Derby completion marks seven season's of rides towards Roo and my Decade Team. Coo, it really doesn't seem that long. I'm especially pleased because we missed a couple of years in 2011 and 2012 while I was concentrating on doing 100s with Uno and Fergus. 
  • Roop's mileage is slowly crawling towards 2000 miles. With the current limited funds we won't get too much done this year, but hopefully we'll keep chipping away at it and things will free up sufficiently in the future that we can get back to our regularly scheduled programming. My ideal is to do a ride about once every 4-5 weeks - keeps all of us ticking over. 
  • pft had the best 50 ever on Saturday and kept it together really well (ignoring the middle of the yellow loop, when it sounds like everyone's ride took a downward turn for a few miles) and I was really proud of how well he did.


  • We had general pad failure on both horses for different reasons:
  • Roo's back, taken from above.
    The dark, bald area corresponds perfectly
    with the bald area in the fleece of the Skito
    • Roo's skito is so worn at the back that there's more or less no fluff left in one area. He was starting to bald around the loin area back in February, but I thought it had grown out sufficiently that we'd be OK. Turns out, not. He's even more bald now after NV Derby.

      Given our current funding freeze, the best option I can come up with is to take apart his Skito Dryback and take apart a misshapen Coolback that I never use, and merge the two back together. I think I should just about have enough fleece to do this. It's not going to be the easiest job, but neither pad is usable in its current state so I don't have anything to lose - and the result should be a pretty usable pad (the Coolback is almost new, so has plenty of life left in the fleece).
    • My hope for a better pad for Fergus didn't pan out either. I bought him a Sensation pad late last year in the hope that it would remedy some of his white hair problems. My main worry was possible heat build up - this conclusion came after 20 Mule Team 100 last year when I got so chafed from his big movement. Lots of heat generation from his big trot so it seemed reasonable that he could be having the same problem as I'd had. Sure enough, the Sensation lady confirmed that perhaps Skito foam wasn't ideal for hot-weather riding because it compresses too much.

      When the pad arrived, although I liked it a lot, I was a little worried over the lack of padding in it. But I also knew that what we had been using wasn't working either so I needed to try something different. The pad showed great promise - right up until Patrick noticed a small edema on his spine the day after the ride - corresponding with a ventilation cut-out along the spine in the back of the pad. That's no good. He wasn't sore on it (in fact, to date, he's never been back sore, which is what makes it so tricky to remedy - you don't know there's a problem until the white hairs show up).

      The pad evidently needs more bulk to keep the saddle from compressing on to his spine. Luckily it has pockets to add shims, so I'm hoping that the addition of a new set of Skito foams (for this pad, and Roo's) or perhaps a layer of felt in addition to the special EcoGold foam will remedy the problem. I need to move quickly, however - his next ride is scheduled to be NASTR 75 in six weeks.
  • I was super-sore after this ride - not the usual quads, but the tops of the backs of my calves. What's up with that? I don't even know what I'm doing that would cause that. The pain lasted 4-5 days and I'd be massaging my calves while driving home from work each evening.
  • Must do better with during-the-ride-eating. You can get away with not bothering to eat at all on a 50, but this is going to bite me for the rest of the year with a 75 and two 100s planned. I need to pull up my socks and plan a little better. I know how to do it, I just need to manage this part a lot better (out of practice).
  • Note to self: definitely boot the horses the night before if you're planning on doing both horses. Trying to wrestle both of them into boots the morning of a ride is too much. If it was just Roo, it'd be fine, but doing both (especially given how awkward Fergus usually is) is more than my back is comfortable with. 
  • I need to figure out why so much sand got into Fergus' boots and figure out how to avoid it in the future. And along those lines, I need to decide if/who I'm going to glue shells on for NASTR 75. 

So, all in all, a good weekend was had. I know what I have to work on for Part 2 of the Triple Crown (NASTR 75) and feel a little less tentative about getting it done. I still have no idea if Roo's up for Virginia City 100, but think he might be capable if I manage him really well - we need to pace well and have the correct ride-buddy (not Fergus, unfortunately). Luckily, KT and Kody are also aiming for TC, so hopefully that'll work out. Roo's not a super-horse, but boy is he a good worker-bee. I just have to set him up to succeed.

pft was a little beat up from riding NV Derby and I think some of that is from trying to rate Fergus to a sensible pace (aka Roo's pace). If he was able to go Fergus' pace, I think they'd both be a lot more comfortable, so I'm encouraging him to at least start NASTR 75 on their own, so he doesn't have to work against Fergus so much for the first loop.

Dog Stuff:

Finn got some excellent socialisation - so many people to be petted by. He discovered that small children aren't instruments of the devil (once we introduced him to Taren and he found out that Taren is also equippped with the magic ear-scritching skill), played with many dogs, including Ericka Bjorum-Nelson's poodles (very interesting to see the difference in body type), and best of all, we met and played with Elicia Kamberg's decker, Ari.

Patrick met Ash's decker, Artemis, when we were in AZ over Christmas, but Artemis was still very much a puppy and that was her first excursion away from home, so he wasn't really able to take in the full decker personality.

Ari, OTOH, at six months old, ran about, returned beautifully when called (despite external distractions) and was generally an excellent ambassador for her kind. And Elicia kindly extolled her virtues (compared to other dogs) too - so Patrick allowed that if I had to have a decker, then I should get one. :|excited|: