Friday, May 23, 2014

Pre-NASTR 75 - In Which I Glue 274 Feet

Today was Gluing Day - never my favorite. I opted to work from home so I could glue without a time limit or without it getting dark (which is what usually happens. Gluing in daylight isn't fun. In the dark, even less so). This means working until midnight to get my real work done, but at least I could glue in peace.

Fergus's new size 3s arrived within two days earlier this week, averting that mini-crisis. And I'd bought a spare tube of Adhere from the Sierra Saddlery* in Auburn last weekend (*think they are called something else now, since the farrier-supply and the saddlery part seem to have split into two separate businesses - the farrier-supply is now in the warehouse in the back and, although isn't open on a Saturday, the saddlery-lady kindly was able to ring me up) so we were set for glue.

Wednesday evening after dashing home from the tooth torturer orthodontist, Roo got his pre-glue pedicure.I haven't booted him a lot in back this year, and have probably been generally less aggressive about how I trim to leave more foot for completely barefoot riding. I've been letting Fergus and Roo self-trim more, which has resulted in stronger feet.

The secondary result is that although Roop's been wearing 0.5s in front and 0s in the back for about a year now, these boots are actually stretched and not necessarily the perfect size for gluing (i.e. I wouldn't be able to squeeze on a brand-new shell + glue in those sizes). So when it came to choosing glue-ons for him, he was comfortably an 0.5 in the back, and his larger front foot fit better into a size 1.

Now that we're done with gluing (sneak preview), I'd say that using a 0.5 Wide would probably be better for him, as the size 1 is a little longer, front to back, than it needs to be (but an 0.5 would not have fit).

The 0.5s glue-one in the back are perfect.

* * *

From past experience of glue setting up too fast on a warm day, all the shells and glues were safely stored in a big cooler in the nice-n-cool basement prior to gluing. The two shells I used for dry-fitting got slightly soiled, so I had pft wash them with hot soapy water beforehand. 'Course they didn't come out completely dry, so then we had to set them in the sun to obliterate any moisture - after which they were hot, hot, hot, so I had to go and put them in the fridge to get them cold again. Even once we were gluing, all the shells stayed in the cooler until it was time to apply the glue. I have become OCD about having cold materials.

Spent the morning doing the hoof-prep. The horses' hooves are currently coated in concrete-like mud - the only way to get it off was scrutch down on the ground and painstakingly scrape at it with the side of the hoofpick. Once the worst was off, I could lightly rasp off the top coat of hoof for a really clean wall and scrape cross-hatching onto the surface to give the glue something to grip.

Hoof-prep complete, horses happy in front of their hay bags.
Our plan of attack was for me to do the squeezing of the glue, and for pft to pick up and clean off any remaining debris from the hoof (our "cleanest" flat area for gluing is still dust-covered, despite multiple sweepings). Once the glue was in the shell, I'd switch positions with him, jamming the boot on and he'd pick up the opposite foot for the few minutes needed to keep the horse still for curing. The only snag with this plan of attack was that by boot #7, my gun-hand was starting to give out and really didn't want to squeeze any more. Wimp hand R us.

*  *  *

Roo got done first and we did that size 1 as our first effort. Probably didn't put enough glue in to thoroughly fill out the bigger toe, and still need to rasp an aggressive breakover into the toe (the size 1 was an old leftover boot from gluing Uno's backs in 2010 - this was before Easycare changed their toe-design to be more bevelled) - not thrilled with how this boot went on and therefore select this one for the "Fail"* during Sunday's 75 (*you have to have at least one boot-application that you don't love).

The other boots went on with no swearing and several smiles (< gasp > - unheard of).

Roo's feetses. You can see the difference in the breakover
of the size 1 (on right of the pic) and 0.5 (left). Need to take
a rasp to that toe before the ride.

I also don't love him cocking that right rear like that -
that's his overused leg and he should be spanked
for making me look at him doing it. During the time he
was tied waiting to be glued, he managed to get his head
under the lead rope and startled when I arrived with
the wheelie-cooler full off booting materials. This caused
him to have a minor panic-attack and scramble around,
nearly sitting down in the process. He didn't appear to
have done any damage, but his back legs made some
interesting scrape marks in the rubber mats.

Don't think about it, Lucy.
Once Roo was done, we got ready to glue Bigfoot. Before starting, it occurred to me to check how much Adhere was left in the tube (wow! thinking ahead! this is from the person who during a previous gluing session, sat there frustratingly squeezing on the gun with nothing coming out, thinking the glue had set up... only to discover the tube was actually empty). There was only a inch left, so rather than use that up and have to speedily switch out an Adhere tube mid-boot, we opted to start a completely new tube.

And this is where things started to go wrong.

For some reason, this tube set up much faster than the previous one. So half-way through applying the glue to Fergus' first size 3 boot (which, being a big boot, requires quite a bit of time to smear all the necessary glue in), I realised to my horror that one side was already nearly set up. I dashed to the horse and smooshed the shell on - twisting it hard to break the skin on the hardening-glue and hopefully getting a seal. This boot looks awful - the glue on the left (medial) side is totally blobby, so the boot wall sticks out about 1/4". Luckily the right (lateral) side glued beautifully, so after staring at it for a minute or so, I decided to just go with it (the alternative was to try and get the boot off and clean it off - at this stage, a virtual impossibility). It looks awful, but, surprisingly, I think it might actually hold (famous last words).

pft dashed into the house and fetched a cooler full of ice and we put the glue-n-gun into that for the remaining boots.

Fergus' smart boots. The RF (left on this pic) is the "funky"
glue-on, although it doesn't look too bad in this pic. I expect
he'll manage to hook the adjacent foot onto the lip of the
sticky-out boot while going along, and rip it off.
Boots #2 and #3 went on very nicely, so I figured we'd solved the speed-set up with the cooling effects of the ice.

Not so. While gluing boot #4 (a size 2 for the back), the same thing happened - I was finishing off applying the glue to the second half of boot #4 and realised the first half was already hardened up. ARGGGG. But gold star for quick thinking - I ripped out that strip of hardened glue and quickly applied a third half of glue to the boot and jammed it on the foot. Surprisingly, this boot seemed to go on fine despite the problems (again, famous last words).

We shall see.

Both pft and I carry a full complement of Gloves (with gaiters) anyway (have boot baggies either side of the back of the saddle where they don't get in the way but are handy if needed) and in theory, if Fergus loses a boot, none of the glue will have stuck to his hoof, so getting a normal boot on will be relatively easy (instead of the nightmare scenario of the boot coming off, leaving a 1/8" of glue on the hoofwall, meaning no usual-sized boot is ever going on that foot. There's a rasp in my crew box for precisely this purpose - removing excess glue to get a boot on properly).

* * *

But the real mystery is - why was that second tube of Adhere different in its curing time? The first tube (the one that behaved) was the one I bought in Auburn last weekend, while the misbehaving tube was one I'd bought for Roo for 20 Mule Team (back in February - ended up not going to the ride). So I concluded it must be an older tube.

Checked the lot numbers on the two tubes, and they are from exactly the same batch. Huh.

The (bad) 20MT tube has been stored in a box in my front hall since February. Admittedly not climate-controlled, but not baking either. But I doubt the Sierra Farrier Supply place (in the warehouse) is any better climate-controlled than my house for the (good) tube, so I can't believe it's related to recent storage.

Maybe the difference was that it took longer to smear glue in to Fergus' big size 2 and 3 boots - and he was glued second, so the temperature had gone up by then? It was in the high-80sF by the time we were done. < shrug >.

So, all in all, not too bad. Having plenty of unlimited time really helped not feeling angst-filled, even when things went wrong (witness the lack of swearing). Still don't know the answer to keeping the glue cool - except for maybe having an ice pack to rest it on during even short pauses.

pft tweaked on my Adhere-glue-gun a little the other night and it seems to have straightened it out a bit - it the trigger part of the handle wasn't bouncing back the way it should, making it so that I had to squeeze, then manually release it, which really didn't help with my gluing-enthusiasm. Having a glue-gun that works is much better... even if your hand is too wimpy to squeeze it after 7 boots-worth of glue in quick succession.

Other than horse stuff, nothing else is packed yet, so we still have plenty of things to do before we can leave in the morning. But we're getting there. Woo!

Off to do my real work.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Pre-NASTR 75 - In Which I Fret About the Ride

NASTR 75 is next weekend and although I'm feeling good about how Roo feels after last weekend's 30 mile training ride, I'm stressing about the ride a little more than I'd realised.

There are several things going on:

Early Rising and Getting Out There:

Last week I read that the ride starts at 5 a.m. Visions of trying to get pft, me, Fergus, and Roo ready in time (not to mention sorting Finn out) makes me nervous, as does the concept of probably having to get up at 3:30 a.m. I just don't do well at 'organizing' that early in the morning and the thought of it gives me a bad tummy. ('course I know that, once on the horse and going along, I'll be fine - but I've got to get there first).

Horse Footwear

I thought I had a plan for this, but the more I thought about it, the less good a plan it seemed to be. Here's the basics:

Fergus does fine in strap-on boots (provided I put him in boots that hadn't reached their sell-by date several months ago and are super-stretched and baggy) - has no problems with gaiter-rubbing, but he *really* does well with cushioning. He trots along fine on hard-packed terrain, but just *flies* as soon as you put him in soft footing. So my plan was to put him in Easyboot Gloves and cushion the underside with sikaflex sole pack.

Roo, OTOH, tends to get gaiter rubs on the front of his pasterns where the two edges overlap, so I figured I'd use the set of glue-ons that I ordered for him for 20 Mule Team 100 (which we didn't go to), and also cushion him with sikaflex.

The problem with this plan was when exactly was I going to glue the two separate horses? I had vague ideas of doing Roo one evening during the week prior to the ride, then popping Fergus in his boots on Saturday afternoon and pumping them full of sikaflex through holes in the underside. And then I thought about the reality of this plan. About how, despite other people's experiences, mine were that, as soon as you opened the tube of sikaflex you had to use it all up because next time you tried to extract the screwdriver you'd jammed in the opening, it will have set up solid.

After a txt-discussion with a friend on Friday morning, she suggested that if I wanted pft to have a hassle-free ride and wanted to reduce my angst, I should probably glue both horses.

Yesterday I checked and found I have shells for Fergus, but knew that a single tube of Adhere was not going to be enough to glue eight feet - especially when four of them are Fergus' (he wears size 2.5s on front and 1.5 or 2s on the back). So off we went on Saturday to the farrier supply in Auburn and picked up a second tube of Adhere.

I'll still have to glue the eight feet one evening next week, but will trim them up today (Sunday) and make sure everything fits well.

Update since writing the above:

This afternoon I trimmed Fergus and discovered that, whilst I can fit 2.5s on his front feet and that's what he'd wear in Gloves, in reality, trying to glue on 2.5s is going to end in tears. They need to be whacked carefully to get them to seat properly and are really tight. Not going to work well with the extra space glue takes up. Urk. I have shells in 2.5 and 2... but no 3s. Hence will be calling around Monday morning to find somewhere that can guarantee to get a pair of 3s to me by Thursday.

The extra expense of needing to buy things that I thought I had covered is not great. But let's face it, any expense right now is not great. To do this thing right I'm digging deep into my "ride slush fund". Guilt R us.

Update since writing the above (I can't write this stuff as fast as things change):

Poked around online and it looks like Long Rider's Gear have two remaining size 3 glue-ons in stock, so I just ordered them in the hope that they'll send them out first thing Monday. I've had good luck ordering from this store in the past and they were very speedy. Which probably means this time around my package will get send to Grass Valley instead of Garden Valley (yes, this has happened in the past) and will take an extra three days to get here.

Pft's First 75:

This will be pft's first foray into anything over 50 miles and I so want him to have a good experience. I'm not him, so I can't make it work for him, but I can offer support and suggestions.

One thing we discovered at NV Derby is that although Roo can match Fergus' "easy trot" pace, it's not something I particularly felt he ought to be doing, so I was often asking pft to ease up a bit. This meant that he got more beaten up than usual trying to keep Fergus off Roo's red line.

Which leaves me with the dilemma. Do I send them off on their own? Or do I ride with them?

Plan A 

was to send pft and Fergus off on their own so he could pace appropriately for them. That's not to say that overall they'd get there any faster than us - but when they were moving out, they'd be moving a lot faster than me and Roo (who does much better in the long run if I can get him to a steady slow continuous trot). That was my plan when I had KT, Funder, Angela or Aurora as potential riding buddies. Unfortunately, all four of them are now out for various reasons - which would mean finding someone else who's style is slow and steady. Not that many of them around.

Whilst I've met some lovely people and spent a fun day riding with complete strangers, I've also had some really awful experiences when you get in that weird situation where you end up riding with someone who doesn't really want you there, but you're stuck riding with them the entire day because they're going the same speed as you. They usually have their own riding buddy (so, again, don't want you around) and end up ignoring you, or making it generally crunchy at water troughs, etc. Have no desire to do that for 75 miles.

Roo doesn't like riding alone and needs a buddy, so I'd either have to find a willing partner pre-ride, or not go that route at all.

Plan B

I think Roo can actually keep up with Fergus fine, so right now I'm aiming for Plan B which is to just ride with pft and Fergus and it'll all work out. Roo may go a little faster than perhaps I'm comfortable with towards the end of the first loop when you can move out, but he's been training with Fergus all year, so it won't be unreasonable for him to go F's speed. Plus Fergus should be nicely settled by Loop 2.

Unfortunately I then started thinking about the very end - the last few miles of the ride when you generally walk in, lit by the streetlights of Dayton in the distance. Roo and I did the ride in 2007 and he got pretty crunchy in those last miles - even had some strange rear end muscle spasm thing in the last half mile which *really* freaked me out. But come on Lucy, that was *seven* years ago...

But I still got to thinking about how nice and big Fergus can walk - particularly at the end being lured in by the promise of the trailer. I don't think I want Roo jog-trotting the last three miles of the ride, which is what he'll have to do to keep up. Hum. Maybe I'll be speed-hand-walking the last three miles in. Awk. That's going to be a hard end to a long day.

Triple Crown:

Some things are fun. Some things are hard. And some things are fun because they are hard. If you manage to achieve a goal you set yourself, there's no better high. Unfortunately, before the high (even if things look good), you still have to suffer nerves and worry - precisely because your goal is harder than the average activity.

This year I've set myself two goals - finish Triple Crown with Roo and finish Tevis with Fergus. Both, I think, are attainable. But both could equally go the way of the toilet if things don't go as planned and hoped.

If NASTR 75 was just another ride, I'd start it and just see where it took us - and if it didn't work out, then, oh well, it didn't work out (but I probably learned a ton in the process). But because of wanting the Triple Crown goal to work with Roo, I really want to finish this 75 - and I want to finish it in good shape - not finish it by the skin of our teeth. I want my worries about Roo not being "up for longer distances" (based on past performances of over five years ago) to prove unfounded and for him to take it in his stride as I suspect he actually can. But only by trying will I find out.

And I really want pft and Fergus to finish - pft because he could really use a bright spot in his life right now, and Fergus because doing the 75 is an integral part of his (what right now isn't quite where I want it) Tevis training.

So I guess I made this bed for myself, and now I get to sleep in it :)


NASTR isn't a super-hard ride in terms of climbing, but it's got a lot of fiddly stuff on it and a lot of varied terrain to figure out how best to get through - and it's still 75 miles. You have to manage the horse sensibly and balance not going too fast with moving out as much as possible on the trottable sections.

The coolest thing about this ride is discovering that horses can actually trot over rocks without falling over or laming themselves - particularly in the dark. You start the ride tip-toeing over every rocky stretch (of which there are many for miles on the first and last loops as you work your way through the riverbeds in the bottom of El Dorado and Illinois canyons), and by then end you just let them get on with it and are astonished to find that - huh - they're actually quite good at it.

Having finished the ride three times before (and had one pull with Uno in 2010), I know the ups and downs pretty well, so can coach pft appropriately (get him to eat pick-me-up items when things start to lag).

Loop 1: cheery
Loop 2: start cheery, enjoy the fun parts, and then gradually slide into the bleahs before disappearing into them completely on the last miles and miles slog into the vet check ("it'll be just over the next rise!... Ok, it'll be just over the *next* rise.... well, allright then, the *next* one...")
Loop 3: wish you could take an afternoon nap and feel generally unmotivated to do more than trudge
Loop 4: horses perk up, it cools off, you are sucked towards the finish by a mysterious forcefield only felt by horses heading towards their trailers.

The trick is to get through those middle two loops.

And the trick will be getting Roop to the finish without him pooping out or getting crunchy. This will only be the fourth time he's gone over 50 miles, and although he finished the 75 and a 100 (got pulled at Tevis at 65 miles), he's not a super-horse and I wouldn't say finished those longer distance rides "seamlessly". That said, I've finished many more miles in the interim, am more experienced and wiser than I was for those previous times, so in theory can manage him better, right Lucy?

p.s. My fingers look like hell from continuously chewing on them.