Wednesday, May 27, 2015

May - Week 3

The theme for the bank holiday weekend was "Sleep-Sleep-Sleep", instead of "Go Out and Have Three Days of Fun". You know it's time when the thought of doing anything "fun" fills you with an overwhelming tiredness - and so it was on Sunday morning (despite not getting out of bed at all on Saturday) when we were supposed to be packing for a quick camping trip to the mountains. The end result was a girl who spent almost the entire weekend either reading, watching films, or sleeping... sometimes all at the same time.

Sunday evening, pft joined me on a quick jaunt to the Powerlines and back (he wisely stayed at the top, keeping his mtn bike company, instead of scrambling down and then puffing his way back up again). Poor Finn was overheating - I need to do a summer convict-cut on him again since the temperatures are about to start climbing with avengence. Fergus took it all in his stride and positively lunged when we turned for home - I was about to suggest that he graze for a minute at the bottom, but instead he leapt, did that slightly alarming [oh-my-goodness-he's-a-big-strong-horse] head wrench and off we shot back up the hill.

By crikey that little dog can run!

And so I pronounce Fergus ready for NASTR 75 next weekend.

He's not carrying as much weight as I'd like. He's not thin, it's more that he's just not plump for the upcoming workload. Hopefully he doesn't drop too much weight this coming weekend. Once we get back, it'll be Operation Fatten Up all the way to Big Horn.

The forecast is for 88°F on Saturday - awk - we haven't trained in heat at all this year and he sweats pretty well in mid-70s right now, so I'm going to have to be diligent about keeping him as cool as I can.

His new ultra-expensive [oh please oh please let them do the trick] saddle pad inserts are on their way via UPS and should be here tomorrow (because we all know that you're supposed to try brand new, never-before-experimented-with, things on the day of a 75, right?). My take is that it can't be any worse than what I've already subjected his back to - he currently looks like an abuse case, thanks to my trying Freeform panels. It was another example of Lucy trying to put too much under there to make it work - and I've no real way of knowing if it is working since he seldom shows signs of discomfort - the first I know of it is when a new rash of white patches show up <sad>.

Anyway, hopefully the minimalist yet high-tech approach will do the trick this time around. And failing that, I can send a spare pad out to the vet check to switch out - we go through there three times.

* * *

And the Sleep-Sleep-Sleep worked! This morning I actually felt that tug of excitement back again. Even though I knew I'd be happy when I got there, the thought of NASTR (or indeed any ride, even a conditioning ride) was making me weary. Instead, I'm getting that clean focused feeling again - where I have things in hand and - yes - this is going to be fun.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

May - Week 2 and a Bit

Week 2:

This is kind of backwards since the weekends are preceding the weeks - which everyone knows is wrong, since all weekends come at the end of the week. I will try to do better.

High Desert - Weekend 9th-10th:

Roops, Finn, Spike, pft, pft's dirt bike, and I had a splendid excursion to Nevada for the never-before-ridden High Desert Ride. As we arrived the skies opened and the "10% possibility of rain" materialized as about 2 inches-worth of wetness.

Roops and I rode with Dionne and her big mare Storm who was on her first 50 and we had a lovely day yakking away and riding about in the hills. I had wished for a nice relaxing ride with no drama and that's exactly what I got - right up until a rider just ahead of us fell off and broke her hip and had to be care-flighted to the hospital in Reno. Poor Dionne was made to go slower than Storm's capabilities, since Roo didn't need to be trotting along at 10+ mph, but we got the job done and I got a customary 5th from last - huzzah. 

pft rode about on his dirt bike and lolled about at camp. The dogs inadvertently got to gallop about in camp and have a wondrous time greeting all the neighbours until corralled. A fine time was had by all.

Monday 11th - Sunday 17th:

In which I worked, drove, slept, scratched the raging case of poison oak I picked up riding Fergus on the Powerlines and at Cool, and dealt with lumps*.

(*continuing saga from two years ago. I took high doses of Zinc, the problem went away for a year. I was cured so stopped taking the zinc, the problem came back. I am back taking high doses of zinc.)

So much for dynamic thoughts of pre-work riding and "Getting Stuff Done".

In fact, Saturday I didn't get out of bed at all, and instead sat and read a Norwegian mystery - Dreamless by Jørgen Brekke. Good reading, apparently, since it only took me a day to finish. This seems to be a regular cycle for me at the moment - go really really hard, then crash spectacularly.

Sunday I frog-marched myself out of bed and trimmed overdue Small Thing's feet - dug out the interesting remains of an abscess on his right rear - and then took Fergus out of for his final "long" conditioning ride before NASTR 75 in two weeks. Neither of us were filled with energy, so we did a peddle-ride with windmilling legs while Fergus ate his favorite seed-grasses. Lost both back boots - apparently I should read my own blog since it appears I used exactly the same back boots that fell off during our last big conditioning ride

Fergus Angst:
I'm hoping Fergus' current lack of enthusiasm has everything to do with being taken out on his own (and not having suitable back feet footwear), and nothing to do with my recurrent angst about saddle+pad fit. Using the Freeform panels for 20MT and NV Derby - something I was really pleased with at the time and seemed to be working beautifully - caused huge white stripes to appear along his back - argh. Every time I look at him, all I can see is those stupid white patches, never mind he's not remotely troubled by them when I palpate his back

Whatever I seem to do with pad inserts results in what feels like a huge wodge on his back along the top edge of the inserts. I had tried some shims which I thought were working, but next time I felt them, they felt bulky in that trouble-area. I will try reversing them so the tapered edge is up towards his spine.

In the Good Girl Department, I mended some torn gaiters with my handy "Speedy Stitcher"... $40 saved.. yay me... I'm trying to work up the courage to do my Ariat riding shoes, which have unravelled stitching down one side, but I'm scared of making a big lump in the wrong place on the inside. It's not rocket science, Lucy.

Monday, May 4, 2015

NV Derby - 4th-5th April

NV Derby - 4th-5th

Took Fergus and Roo over to Washoe Valley for this ride and planned to ride both days, regardless of weather. I just don't care. Stamping feet. Etc.

Approaching the ride date, the weather began to deteriorate and I concluded that whilst I might be able to get home on Monday morning in the truck, I wasn't comfortable dragging the trailer in snow. Accordingly, Renee kindly offered to house the pones at her house in Reno for the week should it be necessary to leave them in NV. I'd come back the next weekend and fetch them - a PITB, but I really wanted to do the ride.

As it turned out, the weather was fine and clear come Monday morning. I left ridecamp at 8:45, met pft in Auburn to switch the rig-n-pones for a commute car, and was at work and showered* by noon.

(* necessary, given three days of crud accumulation).


The ride went really well. Saturday was the first ride of NASTR Triple Crown (Fergus is "up" this year) and I'd planned to move out a little with him, rather than dawdle and dilly-dally. It "sort of" worked. Biggest problem was dealing with a shrieking Roo at the trailer - and the responding bellows from Fergus.

We rode the first loop with neighbor Becky who we'd trained with a little, so I knew she knew what sort of pace Fergus could do if I let him and wouldn't have to feel guilty (note this happens pretty rarely - the "letting him move out" part). Most of the time I'm super conservative, but I just wanted to see what happens if I let him get on with it.

Wild mustang herd out by American Flat
One interesting section was riding through the crappy rocks under the power lines. Ordinarily I'd insist that he walked these sections, but at one point found ourselves trotting along while realising that we should be walking. I was about to pull him up when I realised he was actually doing a really tidy job of not tripping on the rocks, or standing on them and taking funky, lame-making steps. He did such a nice job on that crappy section that his technical abilities went up in my estimation. Not sure why I thought he was clutzy, when I think back to how well he did in the dark during Tevis last summer, but I'm really starting to trust him not to do something stupid when it comes to travelling at speed over uncertain footing.

Every time we came into camp, Fergus would be bellowing frantically for Roo and I'd have to take him to the trailer and let them breathe in each other's faces for a minute or so before we could proceed to the vet check. Luckily I was parked at the end of the trot lanes, so in Fergus' case, this worked OK - at least I could get a pulse on him, although I did bring Roo along for the first PnR.

Parked at the end of the trot lanes - good and bad.
But main conclusion - excellent spot.

Becky decided to hang back a little for the second loop, so we went out alone. Despite my best efforts I was still nearly 10 mins late leaving the lunch check - just not enough minutes in an hour hold to get Fergus, Roo, and me squared away. This second loop was very intermittent, pace-wise. I've been trying to get more consistent about pacing with Fergus, but it does require the cooperation of said horse, which I didn't have with Mr Misery, out there with no friends, in the desert, alone... He basically bellowed for about 30 miles which was quite dull and I confess to resorting to whacking him with my rommel every time he did it - which made not the slightest bit of difference.

But he did good. We rode on and off with the riders around us, but mostly on our own, trotting along, bellowing.

Windy on top of Sand Hill. Washoe Lake looking pitiful in the background
Biggest excitement was—after promising Gina Hall that I'd appreciate Ophir Grade better—being rewarded with finding a 100-year old oxen shoe just lying there on the path. Saddest moment was realising there was no way I'd be able get back on Fergus if I got off to retrieve it, and so having to disappointingly leave it there (actually secretly scared that it was really just a chunk of rusty metal - which I knew is what it'd turn out to be if I slithered off and then spent the next two miles on foot, looking for a mounting block). And bigger excitement was discovering that Gina and Dave had also spotted it on the trail behind me - and they were off on foot, so picked it up - and after bitter whining during the awards, she gave it to me. Thanks Gina!

Ophir Grade, near where I found my oxen shoe

Oxen shoe!

Coming in on loop 2 across the park, I could tell that Fergus was getting a little tired of continuous trotting and although we stalked a couple of riders on the trail (I look at my watch when they are next to a certain bush or some other landmark, then see how long it take me to get there - thus how far they are in front of me - and later, do it again to see if we're gaining). I opted to ask him to keep trotting, but not to push him. Just as well - turns out the two riders were a loop ahead of us and going in to the finish, while we still had a third loop to complete.

On the last loop - the 6-7 miles around the park, he'd really lost interest and was very miffed at having to leave Roo once again. Again, we were out of the hold 5+ mins late due to having to juggle Roo, Fergus and my needs on the half-hour hold. Hey ho. I tried. More enthusiastic riders passed us (they were in a pair, so their horses were all happy - not all alone and likely to die out there, like Fergus would. least until we turned for home again) and we never caught them - again, I opted to ask him to trot, but not to push it.

All in all, he coped very well with the extra non-dawdle pace. Vet Marcia Smith thought she spotted "something" on his LF at his final trot out. Given his tendency to skip when he goes into the trot, I never know if he's genuinely showing something (and thus should bite my nails and obsess over it)(which you know I am, secretly, anyway), or if they're just seeing that skip. He is a big horse, with a big trot and doesn't show well (unlike horses with more moderated, low-energy gaits) if he loses motivation, so that could also be it. Either way, I immediately pulled his boots (easier said than done - yes, that is my horse standing over there with several yanking/poking instruments sticking out of his footwear and me getting redder in the face from wrestling with them) to make sure that wasn't causing the problem, but no, they seemed fine, with minimum amount of sand in the fronts (the glued ones) and quite a bit more in the backs (non-glue), but seemingly not enough to cause any problem.

Bundled him and Roo into their blankies, spent some time blankly trying to figure out why his Equisleeve socks weren't in the trailer before I flashed to them hanging up "to dry" (for the last six weeks) in the mud room after they came home filthy from 20MT. I ended up putting Uno's purple ones on him - these are the next size down, but went on fine (it even felt like they went on easier than usual? Maybe because I'd taken his boots off) and seemed to not cause any over-compression.

Uno's purple sleevies, Fergus' filthy blanket. Fashionable horse about town.

And our non-dawdle pace paid off, with a 25th place finish out of 70-something riders - admirable, considering how much time I lost not getting out of the holds on time.

Wheee - love riding this horse!

Sunday was Roo's turn.

My morning wasn't quite as relaxed as hoped - probably because I had to spend several hours mucking the elephant horse, but I got Roo's clothes on and was about to get on when I realised guiltily that I hadn't eaten anything. So there I was, doing a speed-stuff of half a banana into my face, when I noticed the clasp on the snap on Roo's zilco halter was broken and sticking out at right angles. Hmm, not good. I assume he rubbed it on the trailer. Decided to try and push it back into place rather than remove bridle, halter, find a new halter and put everything back on. And right as I was frustratedly pushing on the snap without success and thinking I'd have to do that anyway, it popped back into place. On I hopped and we were off, leaving the bellowing Fergus in our wake (clearly, leaving from the opposite side of the trailer from Fergus wasn't the cloaking device I'd hoped it would be).

Apparently I hadn't really planned this out properly, since I hadn't made any arrangements to ride with anyone, which is the kiss of death with Roo. The first part of the ride crosses the park on the wide sandy road. Roo stopped dead before we even got to the number-taker, then spooked at the water trough at the start line, then proceeded to weave drunkenly at the trot for the first half mile. We caught some walking-riders, he didn't look convinced, so we trotted on until we caught the next pair - who turned out to be Dave and Connie! Yay! Good company! And we rode with them for the rest of the day.

Weather coming in over the Sierra from California to the west

At the top of Jumbo Grade

Starting down the long descent

The biggest thing that concerned me riding with them is both their horses have a super-fast walk, while Roo's walk is... well... not fast. Not even medium. We'll call it "slow". So we'd follow along, shuffling-trot at regular intervals to keep up. Then I remembered that Roo had followed Shardonney through much of Virginia City 100 in September - so I knew he could deal with the pace (and this was half the distance).

Connie and Dave's trot-pace was a little slower than Roo thought we ought to be going, so I was having to hang on to him more than was comfortable to stop him tailgaiting, so when we got to the water trough out by American Flat and he was having a "go in front" moment, I let him trot on ahead of them for a mile or so. I knew his gung-ho attitude wouldn't last, but hoped that if I let him move out a little, he'd settle better and I'd be able to ride him on a loose rein as per usual. It worked perfectly - except for the part where him going on ahead upset Shardonney, so she was pulling on poor Connie. Sorry Connie.

With the weather coming in from the west (I was totally overdressed in every item of clothing I'd brought for the weekend - just in case), it had been windy when we started out, but nothing like what hit us as we started to head west again. We got absolutely blasted full-on so hard my sinuses began to hurt from the pressure. My nose ran constantly and any attempt at conversation was a waste of time.

All along this section we saw many small herds of wild mustangs, including one that was standing in the middle of the trail  right in front of us, and went galloping off across the rough ground, leaping boulders as it went. Pretty cool.

Trudging up Goni Rd (remote road that leads up to the cinder pit quarry), I told Connie about how one year there was a guy up there digging in the dirt in a really peculiar way and I was convinced he was burying a body. Connie, in turn, told me the story of her husband having actually found a body up there (someone who'd shot themselves). Euw. Spooky.

Unfortunately, this loop came in from the opposite direction to my trailer, and I foolishly attempted to PnR Roo without first grabbing Fergus. I don't know why I bothered. He was up at 80, yelling at Fergus, who was cheerfully bellowing back from the other side of the trot lanes. Finally I gave up, went and fetched Fergus and had to juggle them both in the PnR area. Pulse now down, the vet secretary and the vet (Rob Lydon, I think?) kindly held Fergus for me while I ran Roo up and down.

Roo munching in lunch in windy camp

Of course, because of our delay, we were now five mins behind Connie and Dave for our out-time, but they kindly agreed to wait for me, letting their horses eat hay at the out-timer. When you're juggling things on your own, you've no idea how little kindnesses like these add up to making the day a fun one, instead of an exercise in frustration. Thanks guys.

Loop 2 sets out along the edge of Washoe Lake - in its current sad state of drought. I was looking back at photos from past years here and it's so sad to see the expanses of dry dusty silt.

Paralleling East Lake Blvd.
(I fell off UNO here one year :)  )

Washoe Puddle :(
Roo managed the climbs admirably (bearing in mind he is not a hill horse by any stretch of the imagination and given the choice, I wouldn't have picked the Cinder Pit day for him. Alas, with Fergus doing Triple Crown this year, he had to do Day 1, and I'm trying to get Roo to 2000 miles, so he had to do "A Day" - whichever one was left over). We got to the top of the Cinder Pit without embarrassing us, although sadly, my yellow sponge went walkabout somewhere on this stretch - all the was left was an empty scissor snap. I think that makes three sponges I've now lost without trace. :(

Coming down the other side, I marvelled at just how fast Dave Rabe can walk on foot. There's no way I could keep up - and I wasn't hanging around. Connie didn't even try and hopped back on Shardonney who has a super-fast walk, so I was having to scuttle to stay ahead of her.

View from just below the Cinder Pit

Dust blowing on the lake, far below
The last loop around the park went without incident - my non-stop trotting abilities are reaching new heights as I can just about go for 6-7 miles now without suffering too badly. Good skills for me and the pones. 

And most amusing was discovering at the finish that we'd top-tenned the ride. Admittedly, there were only 21 or so starters, but it was still fun - a first for Roo and I both. 

Stinking cute as usual
Back at camp, with the weather starting to pile over the Sierra in earnest and it starting to lightly snow, I got Roo's boots off, his sleevies on, large quantities of food installed in front of him and Fergus (I bring many pre-filled hay bags, so just have to keep hanging a fresh one as they empty), big blankies on both, and was out cold by 8:30 p.m. I almost slept for 11 hours straight (can you say "tard"?), except for being woken from a deep stupor at around 10:30 when the side door on the horse-part of the trailer blew open. I don't like to completely latch the doors on the trailer when I'm camping in case I need to make a getaway (have a walk-through door to get into the rear of the trailer) and prefer to have as many exit options as possible - and this one had blown open in the fierce wind. I struggled up, got it bungeed shut from the inside, and after a quick glance at my good, hard-working boys (half-asleep in front of their hay nets), I clambered back into my nest again.

The morning brought bright sunshine, ice on the water buckets, and a wonderful drive back over the Sierra, admiring the fresh snow on the mountain tops. Hard work - but oh, so worth it.

May - Week 1

Week 1:

p.s. Blogspot auto-formatting, oh how I hate thee

Happy First Birthday, Butter-Wouldn't-Melt-in-His-Mouth-Spike!

May started with a blast of me working a really long week and then spending most of Saturday firmly ensconced in a four hour nap. So much for "getting things done" on Saturday.

Fire Prevention/PO Control
Despite the power nap, I did make a dent in pft's vegetation pile (he'd been clearing scotch broom, manzanita, and low-hanging pine branches) by taking several trips up and down in the Baja. The burn pile is now taller than me. And we lopped off the low-hanging branches from the gorgeous big oak tree at the bottom of the driveway. I love the look of the graceful dangling branches brushing the ground, but since I'm not willing to cut down our trees, the next best thing is to get them up off the ground in case of a grass fire - hopefully limiting the chance of any fire getting up in the trees. OK, so I'm dreaming - given the multitude of other trees that could catch - but we have to start somewhere.

I also removed - gingerly and with great caution - the poison oak that was growing up the side of my mounting stump and the enormous bush that was starting to encroach on the driveway in such a way that I was concerned it was going to grab my arm as I went past in the truck. And yes, as a result of this, PO-covered powerline training, and hugging cute dogs, I have healthy PO patches all up and down my arms.

Fergus and I went out and "did hills" on Sunday. I had intended to ride from ALT, but when I got to the gate it transpired that my gate-opening sticker had expired, so I had to do some elaborate backing to get turned around. With that plan nixed, pft kindly came to the rescue and brought me my freshly-purchased Auburn State Rec Area annual Poppy Pass ($125 - awk - picked up on May 1st) from home (I'd predictably left it in my bag) and so we went and parked at Cool instead (bonus - the Cork and Fork next door do freshly baked takeaway pizza for those starving moments post-ride).

Mindful of the muggy heat (mid-70s to 80°F), I opted to do shady Browns Bar first, up Goat Hill, and up the next 250' climb to the High High Trail.That put us at 1,400' in the first 7.5 miles. Then we trundled over and did the Training Hill.

We finished up with 2,700' of climbing, which I thought was quite creditable (Fergus was less enthusiastic) and earned him the rest of the week off. He did good this week having done about 7000' - all of it pretty steep - in the last two weeks, so we'll leave it at that. All climbing and no rest will make Fergus a dull boy.

Switchbacks below ALT

Confluence - finally starting to cool off

Confluence - looking upriver on the Middle Fork - Tevis Trail

Snacking for sustenance before we start the big climb up

Fergus ended up barefoot in back because the boots I'd slipped on were ones that, well, I'd slipped on, so why did I think they'd stay, dummy? The left rear popped off after the first creek on Browns Bar (pulling the back screw attachment through the boot wall and tearing it slightly ), so I took them both off and he did all his climbing nekkid in back. This wasn't too bad, except that the Training Hill is pretty bad in places and I was wincing as he struggled up the steepest parts - not fair for him to have him pushing off that hard on that kind of terrain. At the top, I slipped the boots back on and there they stayed for the last couple of miles home.