Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Roo Snippets from 2007

Browsing for some old ride stories, I came across the following two snippets about Roo that were interesting:

May 2007 - Washoe Valley:

Dave Cootware had brought along a horse scale for us to play with, so I got to weigh Roo several times:

Friday evening: 860 lbs
Saturday: 820 lbs (right after the ride) 
Saturday: 838 lbs (after eating/drinking for a couple of hours/wearing his blankie) 
Sunday: 830 lbs (right after the ride) 

(Peggy [Davidson] weighed Dakota on Saturday after the ride and he was 1022 lbs!)

June 2007 - Horse Expo:

...Watched another demo by Jec Ballou...   Afterwards I went to talk to her about what I could best do with Roo. She suggested that I work on speeding up and slowing down at the trot with him - to work his sacroiliac area and persuade him to drop his head. She said with the pelvis tilted down (from a high head and hollow back), they tend to stab their back legs into the ground and will get problems from that. She also said that walking hills developed the best muscling. She said you'll often see endurance horses with a line down the center of their hips, dividing the two sides of the muscle - probably because they've been trotting up hills and got strong, but not uniformly so. She said you're aiming for a nice round muscle.

Predictably, I haven't worked on this, he does still stab his back feet at times, and has developed a lovely crease down the center of his butt muscles. But that said, I very seldom let him trot up hills - we almost always walk them, so maybe it's just how he's built?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Pre-Pre-Virginia City 100 - in which I round up those last laggard ducks

Leaving tomorrow evening to drive up Virginia City after work. So how are the ducks coming along?

Saddle Fit

Fergus got looked at by Tom Mayes on Friday and it was a good session and explained a lot of what was going on. His right shoulder was all bunged up. It looks like at some point in his life he ran into a tree/gate post/similar - jamming his shoulder (he does have a divot in that shoulder - perhaps the point of impact?), smooshing his diaphragm forwards, and causing all the force to rise up into his right wither/shoulder area.

Tom spent quite a bit of time releasing that whole mess from sternum to withers. Interestingly, he's always had a "wry" foot on the right front - loading it oddly and causing it to grow crooked. And he also moves strangely on the corresponding left rear (you don't feel or see it much watching him move, but you can see it in his footprints in soft footing, not to mention if he twists off a boot - the left rear will be the one). Which begs the question, how long has he been dealing with this? Well, his right front foot has been like that since he was five, and he's 13 now, so...

Tom in the process of realigning Fergus' sternum and shoulder

Another problem was in his loin area. Admittedly, this is where I'm a little hazy about the specifics, and where the non-conventional medicine part comes in. He was apparently having intestinal problems, which manifested itself in the loin area, meaning he couldn't engage his rear end properly - or make proper use of any nutrition I put into him (which is certainly true - I've been feeding the heck out of him and yet he still isn't getting fat). And because the "point" that deals with that area of his insides manifests itself as soreness in the loin area, in turn this meant that he was having some muscle atrophy in his glutes (hence the weird hunters bump that I started noticing the second half of this year - that was mostly from the muscle dropping away either side, not the bump itself rising up), and also losing muscle along his topline - making saddle fit difficult since I was chasing a moving target.

If you saw the before and after flinch and non-flinch, you'd get Tom in to do your horses too.

The really fun part was watching Fergus' reaction before treatment (poke a finger in the offending area, watch Fergus flinch) and after (poke a finger in, watch Fergus not react at all). I don't understand it, but if it means he's more comfortable, I'll go with it.

At the end of the session, Tom suggested that I took him on a short ride to "jump start" the area again - and show Fergus that all his parts were now working again. I planned to ride at Cronin on Saturday, but woke up to smoke from the Butte Fire, 20 miles to the south. Figured it was a bad time to exercise his lungs and I'd wait until tomorrow. Sunday it was worse, and by Monday it was really bad. Tuesday dawned foggy.... foggy? After a week of 100° temperatures, foggy and wet was too strange.

Sunday morning smoke

Finally this morning I got up early and took Fergus and the dogs up to the Power Lines and back before work - not the work-out I was looking for, but at least got us out to try my latest idea in shimming.

Racing Spike home again - yup, that little dog can sustain about 15 mph

It goes like this. If Skito foam was originally invented to even-out pressure points (and—as people complain—the foam smooshes down to nothing when warm), and I need to shim the dips in his back, if I put a Skito foam in the pad under his Jen-X insert, will it just smoosh away in the ridge area, and shim out the dipped area?

So effectively, my pad currently looks like this:

Certainly not ideal, but might do the trick.

This morning we did a quick 3 miles up and back to see what it felt/looked like. I can't say for sure that it'll work, but do like the way this idea is headed. Admittedly, the pad is now SUPER-PADDED, which is maybe too much padding (have done that before), but it doesn't seem to be doing any harm. Thankfully, the treeless saddle works in my favour here - with no solid tree to deal with, it can't pinch him, since it just spreads wider to suit the shape it's sitting on - and hopefully is now better supported further away from his spine.

I have one last option to try - two sets of Skito foam shoulder shims that I found in the back of the trailer. Initially, I only found one set - and they were only 1/2" thick, so not enough in terms of padding. But doing ride-chores last night, I found a second set down the back of something, so possibly doubled up they will be enough. That would effectively look something like this:

And might work. Something to take with us and use if he looks like he's getting uncomfortable.

So saddle fit, not really solved. And we've run out of time. :(

Horse Weight

Fergus has greatly been enjoying this item on the list. He's now getting his ration of LMF-Gold, Cool Calories, Beet Pulp and Vit E-Mag Supplement. As well as a quarter/half flake of alfafa on top of unlimited meadow grass hay. He's getting to the picky, I-can't-possibly-eat-this-hay-and-need-a-bucket-of-goodies-instead stage. So far, he's still not fat, but showing slight signs of improvement.

Horse Elytes

Enduramax and ProCMC purchased and I mixed up his elytes last night, now safely stored in the fridge - after glopping it all over the counter trying to pour it into the bottle. That was messy but at least I didn't squirt any on the ceiling.

My Fuel Intake

Well, I never got to try Tailwind on a ride, but sat and drank a glass of the lemon-flavoured one while flopping about indoors in the heat on Saturday. The verdict was it tastes like alka-selzer cold medicine and isn't something I'd drink unless pft was standing over me, ordering me to drink it (as he has to with the cold medicine).

So that's a "no".

Yesterday, while having a bleah-moment at work in the afternoon, I tried the raspberry one - which has caffeine in it. The raspberry flavour isn't bad, but the nasty aftertaste (presumably caused by the dextrose, sucrose, citric acid, sodium citrate, sea salt, potassium chloride, magnesium citrate, and calcium carbonate) was... well, nasty. And I made it a lot less concentrated than the lemony one. In theory I could make it even weaker, but at that point I'd need to drink about six bottles of water an hour to gain the required effect of not needing any other food source - and the temperatures are only supposed to be in the high 60s/low 70s on Saturday.

Not going to happen.

(I still have the unflavoured option to try out, but can't see how that will work at all, with nothing to mask the nasty aftertaste).

So as an option, pft dropped by REI this morning and got me three packets of Clif's Organic Energy Food - pizza margherita. (review here:

Ash bought me one of these to try when crewing at Tevis and I really liked it (consumed at 3 a.m. when I was having a lull), so hopefully it'll still seem tempting on the day.

I also grabbed a "Chia Squeeze" in strawberry and banana flavour (who knew you could get these at the supermarket?). I have no idea what it tastes like but "Each Squeeze contains 1200 milligram of Omega-3s, protein, antioxidants and more" - that has to be good, right?


The half-chaps were liberally sprayed with "suede cleaner and revitalizer" (or something), which didn't do an awful lot to soften them up, but I wore them around the barn in shorts for a while and they seemed OK, so I'm going to assume they'll be fine.

A new Tipperary helmet showed up in the mail Monday and I spent a happy hour wearing it in bed while reading (didn't get home any earlier than that). It feels snug, but not too snug. And I wore it this morning riding for 45 minutes and my head didn't start throbbing, so I'm going to assume that'll be OK also. Added sticky-backed velcro to the brim area to attach my salamander beak-brim (a super long brim to shade me from the sun so I don't have to wear sunglasses), so the helmet mine now whether I like it or not.

* * *

My list of things to do is mostly done, with the exception of "find GPS" - no clue where I put it, which is a bit disconcerting.

My duck list currently looks like this:

Good enough.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

An Hour of Excitement - in which Hopi doesn't completely lose it

Written Wednesday:

This morning pft had an appt with his sleep apnea Dr (looks like we may be headed in the right direction there, so we'll see how it turns out) and Tom Mayes was supposed to see Fergus this afternoon, so I booked a day "working at home" in between all that stuff. Then Tom postponed until Friday and I didn't have any work, so thought I was going to have to have a day of enforced vacation (and get done all the stuff that I failed to get done over the three day weekend)("the stuff" = anything).

As it turns out, there were fires to fight from work, so I did end up working six hours and once again didn't get anything done - until I looked up and realised it was 7:30 and sunset is 7:30. I'd promised myself – if nothing else – at least I'd trim a "pair of feet" today (either Hopi - needs all four done desperately - or Uno - needs front toes done desperately).

Out on the back deck, struggling into my shoes, I immediately got distracted by small chickens flying onto the roof - was admiring their cleverness in figuring out the safest way up into the roosting tree (the current chook roosting-tree is at the corner of the house, at the end of the dog run). They usually sit on the fence and fly up into it at dusk. And hopefully avoid any interest by the dogs in the process.

Current roosting-tree. If you squint, you can see two chooks in the top left area.

Chooks in roosting mode

But not this time. I went around the corner and discovered both dogs "playing" with one of the teenage chooks. He wasn't looking too hot - down on the ground with Spike looking cheerfully on.   I don't think they like to be "played with". 

Rescued him and took him (stunned and lolling) down to the barn for a night safely tucked up in the chinchilla cage* to recover. I couldn't find any obvious damage - just more dog drool than a chook needs - and thankfully it seems that he was just stunned by his ordeal and appears to have recovered - was walking around within the hour and looking much perkier, so I'm guessing he just got rough-housed. Of course it was my favorite red roosterlet of that bunch. I don't know why I bother having favorites - it's the kiss of death on them.

(* aka chook crĂȘche).

Back in the bosom of his family the following morning,
no worse for wear. He's the red one in the back.


On to trimming.

We got hay delivered today, so everything that normally lives in the barn aisle is being stored temporarily in my trimming space (an open-sided stall closest to the entrance), meaning no space to trim, so I opted to trim in the aisle. Which would have worked fine (probably) if I hadn't picked Hopi to trim.*

(* There was methodic reasoning to this - I figured if I did two of his feet tonight, I'd get the other two done another day, since he can't usually tolerate four feet being done in the same session).

Because I'm too pauperish to buy mats to cover the dirt aisle floor, instead I put down some boards -against mud (winter) or dust (summer), and to drag bales of hay across when the hay truck is too loaded up to fit into the low-roofed barn so has to pull up to the far entrance to unload.

Hopi was a little concerned about standing on the big, heavy 4x8 plywood board, but got used to it soon enough, happily eating out of the hay bag I'd provided, standing with the lead rope looped around the panel a few times (I never tie him when I trim since he can become "excitable").

I trimmed one foot totally without incident, then decided I needed a piece of string to tie the hay bag (on the ground) to the panel, since both he and Uno (inside the stall) were eating out of it and it was moving around too much.

At one end of the aisle is my hay shed - and area that is 8' x 12' with two sliding doors. The door closest to the center was slid open, and the hay area was half-full of 30 bales of hay (they are bringing the rest tomorrow)... and I had one of those "what if" thoughts about how, if Hopi had a meltdown, I could dash in there to get out of his way (one side of the aisle is lined with panels, the other with chook crĂȘche cages, so no escape route for Lucy if she's stupid enough to get trapped at that end). 

I turned to get the piece of string and ... yup... Hopi had a minor meltdown.

 Unsure what set him off but he scootled, tucked his rear end, his back feet slipped on the board, and then he was scrambling around and practically falling down, trying to rear and scootle and panic all at the same time. As designed, the rope came unwoven and - as planned, I dived into the hay shed to get out of his way.

What I wasn't expecting, however, was him diving in after me.

WHAT WAS HE THINKING??? I don't know if he saw me as a safe place, so followed me for protection, or if he was just facing that way and ran forwards, but now there I was, stuck in the hay shed - an area of about 4' x 8' - with a panicking horse who's facing me and threatening to climb up the wall of hay or over the top of me (he's done it before). His back end was covering my exit route - the open sliding door - and behind him in the rear of our 4' x 8' space are two feed bins - the closest one being a metal trash can (for maximum banginess) and I knew if I tried to back him into that gap between the bins and the hay (about 2' x 3') to get him turned around, he'd miss, hit the bin with his back end, panic even more and leap forwards on top of me. Ack.

The space he had me cornered in
The space I needed to back him into (not going to happen) to make space to get out.

Finally opted to grab his lead rope and make a speed dash for the door while turning him to follow me. Not exactly space for him to turn, but better he's turning towards me and the exit than cornering me furthest away from the door.

It worked! He scrambled a bit on the slippery wooden floor of the hay area, but popped out behind me - no damage done, except for a skinned knee (him) and a minor cardiac arrest (me). I shook for about three minutes afterwards but managed to talk nicely to him and praise him for being so clever and not completely losing it.

And got the second foot done. Not well, since I couldn't turn him to face the light without putting him back on the board and that wasn't happening with me underneath him - but got it done in the dark, mostly by feel. He wasn't cooperative, no doubt still in a mild state of alarm, and that was the side he skinned his knee on, so maybe it was sore, but by then pft came down to help me and held him for me while I finished up.

Hum. At least I got something done. Sorta.

Pre-VC100 - in which I try to get my ducks in a row

You always think you've got it together for a 100 - until about two-three weeks before when suddenly everything seems to be falling apart.

I've been scuttling around, trying to get my ducks in a row.

Fergus and I did the Tahoe Rim Ride on 29th August (two weeks ago) - lovely as always - and I came away with a shopping list of things to sort out (and wishing I had an extra month and an extra 50 miler between then and now to get everything squared away).

First of all - the Tahoe Rim ride. It went great and although I worried a little about Fergus' hill fitness (he was a little "bleah" on the steeper climbs), he bounced back in each case once we got to the top and never felt flat the entire ride. Not to mention he managed to finish the ride with a vet card entirely filled with As. I've never done that before - usually there's a B on guts or something. So my take-away is he's ready for VC100.

That said, I don't feel he's as fit as he's been in past years, which means I'm going to need to ride more conservatively than usual. Not a big deal. The goal is finishing – and finishing-looking-as-good-as-we-can – not finishing-as-fast-as-we-can, so this is a good reminder to me (the so-called brains of the operation) and will hopefully reflect in an equally impressive vet card.

Saddle Fit

Or should I say shim fit. My problem is that Fergus doesn't get sore from the saddle... but weeks later tell-tale white patches show up. I narrowed some of it down to pad material - unlike every other horse in the world, sheepskin pads don't seem to agree with him. This finally became blatantly obvious when he wore a fleece-bottomed Skito pad for the first 65 miles of 20 Mule Team 100 back in February and came in to the tack-off vet check with heat bumps the size of peas. I switched to the cotton-bottomed Sensation pad for the last 35 miles and the bumps were gone at the finish. Voila. Problem solved.


A month or so later we did NV Derby 50 in the same set up and shortly after that new white patches appeared. Apparently the FreeForm panels I was trying out weren't having the desired effect - in fact they seemed to be creating more pressure along the ridge of muscle either side of his spine. Nix them.

On to NASTR 75. By now, I'd started throwing money at the problem. I bought a set of Jen-X inserts - poron on the top to combat concussion and impact, and [other foamy stuff] on the bottom to cushion his soft tissue. Removed the offending FF panels and just used the Sensation pad with the new inserts (which, predictably, arrived the day before the ride, so no opportunity to try them out). They actually felt really good and I was very happy with them - we were, in fact, both so happy that we went much faster than we should have and he came up lame with sore feet. Ruh-Roh. But hey, at least the pad seemed to be working.

On to Tahoe Rim 50 - I was still happy with the pad, but now very unhappy with how much topline muscling he seems to have lost. He still has the difficult-to-fit ridge of muscle (now liberally covered in white hair) either side of the spine, but has lost muscle below it. He also developed a strange hunter's bump on his loin area. Something out of whack causing the hunter's bump and therefore causing loss of muscle? Or uncomfortable saddle fit causes loss of muscle, causing something to go out of whack and the hunter's bump to appear? Chicken and egg?

Tom Mayes is due to take a look at him on Friday, so hopefully he'll discover something obvious that I've overlooked and he'll be miraculously cured.

If that doesn't happen, the more likely scenarios is that I'm going to need to get really creative with shimming this coming weekend and come up with some way to protect his remaining back muscle for VC100.

How his saddle has been fitting most of this year. 

I tried a quick, five-mile experiment at the weekend. I'd concluded that the top edge of the insert was causing the most grief, so broke out the FreeForm Panels again - now also stuffed with revolutionary Jen-X inserts (instead of the felt + carpet underlay that was in there to begin with when I last tried them), took a felt-shim out of the saddle itself (hoping to remove that unyielding pressure point) and took all the shims out of the Sensation pad - so I was effectively just using the FF Panels as my insert and saddle support. In doing so, I was hoping that I could move the top edge of the insert further up, so the flat side of it was laying against the bulgy area. Like this:

 All that actually happened was the hair closer to his spine, higher up than the white hairs ended up getting really mussed and swirled. It didn't look promising. At  least not promising enough that I'm willing to risk it untried at a 100 miler.

What I think I need to do, is something closer to this:

which will entail finding some sort of shimming-insert material that I can stack, shape, and layer, while tapering the edges to fit in his hollows.

Horse Weight

Fergus isn't thin. But he's not exactly fat either. I was looking at photos of him tied to the trailer at VC100 in 2012 and he was positively round.

Up until a couple of weeks ago, he'd been living with Roo. About ten days ago Roo chomped him on the girth area and that was the final straw. Not only was Fergus not getting fat from this partnership, he also needed a dose of bubblewrap.

So Roo now has Small Thing as his new room-mate (ST has gained about 50 lbs in a week - this will need to be a temporary situation), and Fergus is living the life of free-feed hay - as much as he can eat. Get fat!

In addition, he's also getting a daily bucket of mush in the morning - three coffee can scoops of Elk Grove pellets, three scoops of LMF Gold, a Vit E/Selenium/Magnesium supplement, and, as of this morning, a loading dose of Cool Calories.  Any more than this and I start to feel like I'm completely overdoing it and will have an out of control monster come ride day. And on a horse as big as Fergus, that picture does not sit comfortably in my head.

(I considered getting a big bag of rice bran, but a) would then have to fret about calcium-phosphate ratios, and b) would stop feeding it after a while, keeping it for "special" - which actually means it goes rancid and is full of wugs and cobwebs... hey, I already have a bag of that!)

Horse Footwear

This is actually an area I feel like I might be winning at (famous last words). After his lameness pull at NASTR 75 in May, he got a couple of months off to heal up and since then has been wearing Renegades in front. I'm pretty happy with them - except for the amount of debris they seem to gather that regularly needs emptying. This weekend I'm scheduled to drill debris-holes in the front of the boots to let this stuff out - allegedly that will help.

I still wince when we trot on pavement (f'instance, on our way back from the powerlines on Andy Wolf, when he's super-motivated to get home) because he lands so hard, so that just reinforces the idea that I can't let him blast along at high speed on hard footing.

The boots worked very nicely for Tahoe Rim - but that is mostly very lovely, duffy footing, so not a huge hardship for him.

His spiffy front Renegade glue-ons with squishy gel soles have arrived and we'll glue them on the Friday before the ride. He'll be in Gloves in the back.

I'm a little anxious about the Ren glue-ons, mostly because I haven't glued them before and the protocol is slightly different than what I'm used to with Gloves. Also the glue surface area is slightly smaller, so I'm worried with my pathetic gluing skills he'll be more prone to losing them. But let's face it, he loses the Gloves just as easily when I mess up* gluing, so it's not like anything is actually that different. This is more pre-ride (and pre-gluing) jitters than based on any real problem.

(* At Tahoe Rim, I finally got back the Size 3 glue-on he lost and someone picked up on the trail at NASTR 75 back in May)

Horse Elytes

Yup, I'm completely out. Remedied this somewhat by purchasing a tub of Enduramax, but still need the ProCMC and some applesauce. Add to the shopping list.


Yes, I did get that Coggins last year specifically for VC100... and yes, that does mean that it has now expired. Took Fergus in for a new Coggins on Tuesday - it should be back by early next week. Disappointingly the vet used the white marks on his back as "identifying features". I am mortified.

My Fitness

Because of needing to keep Fergus to "normal horse pace" at Tahoe Rim, I came home sorer than I've been in a very long time - my quads were shot, my calf muscles stiff and unyielding, even my neck-shoulder junction hurt. My friend Sally came to visit the week after the ride and kindly gave me three mornings of deep massage release on my legs (as well as my arm - I've currently got a lovely dose of tendinitis in my left elbow, which means I'm doing everything lopsided, which really isn't helping). She was concerned that this seemed to be more than just post-ride soreness. And to be honest, I've felt sore for months - figured it was just age creeping in.

So maybe not.

It could be that I need to a) visit a masseuse after the ride, or b) learn rolling techniques (perhaps during the ride? doubtful) to keep the muscles loose.

Either way, I need to remember to stretch as much as possible leading up to the ride - and the morning of the ride. Which, of course, isn't happening yet. Must. Try. Harder.

My Fuel Intake

Did spectacularly badly at this at NASTR (but it was hot <whine>), slightly better at High Desert with Roo, and moderately at Tahoe Rim - and that was due to Renee feeding me sandwiches. In the meantime, I've acquired some Tailwind Endurance Fuel:

It goes like this. You add the powder to your water bottles - in a concentration that mirrors your water intake. So if you want to consume 200 calories in the next section but will likely only drink one water bottle, then the whole packet goes in that one water bottle*. If, however, you will drink three water bottles, then you divide it among the three water bottles.

(* I'm a little worried that an entire packet in a single bottle of water will make my eyes water from the concentration of it...)

The idea is that you don't even have to eat real food (a definite plus for me when I get pathetic) - you ought to be able to subsist entirely on this stuff.

The downside of this is, of course, I haven't tried this product. I have no idea if I'll even like it. I don't usually love flavoured drinks - water is my favorite drink - so I'm unsure how it'll work out. I'm supposed to try these three packets before the ride, so I can pick which I like best. The bottom, white packet is unflavoured... but surely I'll notice a funny taste? surely? The Raspberry Blitz flavour has the added bonus of caffeine, so wondering if that's something I ought to try at night? The lemony one seems like it'll be the least offensive...?

But you need to try them, Lucy!

And you need to formulate a dumbed-down plan as to how you're going to get this in your water bottle when you get stupid.


I broke down and rinsed my half-chaps that were totally caked in dried sweat and grunge:

Now they are clean. And now they are just as stiff and unyielding - only without the grunge caked on. I think I need to find some suede suppler... Or whatever it's called.

Occasionally, when Fergus trots big (as he is prone to do at rides where he can move out), my riding tights not only rotate around my legs, they also begin to creep up my legs until my ankles are exposed at the front - and then the half-chaps rub against the bare skin. Squeak. I need to remember to wear longer socks. Hasn't happened yet, however. Remembering to even bring long socks, that is.

A new helmet is needed. I read somewhere you're supposed to replace them every 3-5 years (assuming, of course, you don't fall off and whack your head). Since I know exactly when I last purchased my helmet (shortly after I fell off and whacked my head hard enough to give myself concussion, despite wearing a brand new helmet, and thus needed to replace said brand-new helmet), I was able to look back at when that Washoe Valley ride was... uh... that would be 2007... about 8 years ago. So yes, a new helmet is needed.

In the meantime, Tipperary opted to very-slightly-redesign their helmets so the "medium" is now just narrow enough for me to wonder if it'll give me a headache, while the "large" is just a bit too big. <sigh>.

My Ariats were coming apart during our trip to UT in July - to the point where I was having to hope that they'd still be together at the end of each hike. So ShoeFix (shoe menders in Auburn) to the rescue and $15 later they are good as new. Ish. Good enough. No longer falling apart. Footwear - check.

So in summation, the ducks are not in a row at all and I've got ten days to make it so: