Wednesday, April 15, 2015

In which we are crunched and feel better and there is a life hack as well

First stop for me this morning:

the chiropractor's office

Doctor Welly has been treating endurance riders at our end of the county for decades.

He knows exactly what we need and how we break...and how to fix us.

Yes, a carpet sample can help fix you.
Keep reading and I'll tell more at the bottom of the post.

The second stop:


Errr, the real reason for the stop:

Equine chiro

Craig starts out by checking mobility and flexibility, and looking for "stuck or twitchy bits."

"The horse mirrors the rider."
Fee was "out" on the left side, directly under the spots where my previously-broken pieces connect with her.

Moving rib heads

Before adjustment, she twitched when he touched her here.
After, no twitching at all.

This is not a job for a short person.

Notice the floppy lip.  This is the first time she's ever flopped her lip
while somebody other than me was touching her head.

There was a lot of activity in the barn aisle during her adjustment, but Fiddle was quiet and cooperative for the entire thing.

My horse is very bendy.

Homework:  massage this area (both sides) to
loosen up the "banjo strings" before riding.

Back home after the appointment:
I didn't forget to share Doctor Welly's life hack.


Carpet remnant to help prevent truck disease
One of the hardest parts of our sport is "truck disease," which occurs when you take a normally very-active person, and strap that person into a truck for 2 or 3 or 4 or 8 or 10 hours...each direction.

Doctor Welly says that every hour or so, move the carpet remnant around under your bum, or out from under, or further back or further forward to change the way the truck seats you.  The carpet won't make the truck seat better or worse, but it will make it different, and that can be enough to slow or stop the stiff muscles we get from driving to (and from) endurance rides.

Simple, cheap, effective.  My favorite things.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

In which we do the 20-mile loop again, and "Mama" is ready

The weather was much nicer than the forecast predicted.

Hana helped pack the picnic basket

This whole weekend was supposed to be cold, wet, and windy.

Whatever that stuff on the road is, it isn't rain.
It hasn't been very warm (I think we hit the low 50's, maybe) but the monsoon rains apparently got distracted and fell elsewhere--possibly in the mountains?  I heard the passes got more than a foot of white stuff.  Better them than us, sez me.

It seems like a late start to the endurance calendar, but with Home on the Range off the schedule in 2015, the first Washington State Ride is scheduled for April 25th.  

We're pretty much ready.  

Choosing the right rider clothing is challenging this time of year.
I wore a long sleeved wool shirt, a short sleeved tech shirt, midweight breeches,
and a raincoat, and adjusted the layers at least 10 times in 20 miles. Sigh.
Barring the usual hell and high water (and excessive sn*w in the passes), Fiddle and I are set to do our first 75-miler together.  

Patty was hoping to ride Flower but a lingering abscess has sidelined the spotted pony for a while, so Ariana has been called up to pinch hit.  She's been ridden lightly all winter, given some time off last month to gain a bit more weight, and is back on the trail again.

Ariana, aka "Mama" is not just ready to go to the ride:
she's ready for a 50-miler!
photo by S. Lange

We did the same 20-mile loop we did last week, including a quick food stop at the Monument.

The meadow was FULL of endurance riders
 When we arrived at the Monument meadow, we got greeted (a little too enthusiastically for my taste) by three large, loud, Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

Fortunately, we know these dogs: they belong to our friends David and Jennifer.  I kept a tight line on the Dragon.  She is not fond of being charged by dogs.

Patty was raised by a pack of Ridgebacks, and does not appreciate misbehavior.
photo by D. Kolouskova

When the meadow cleared out a bit, it was time for a quick snack.

Trading stuff around the various lunch boxes.

Hana wanted to taste a little bit of everything.  She did not like hummus.

And then, back down the road to the trailhead again.

Strong and ready

We have just one or two more training rides left.  Then: it's off to Spokane for the ride!

And that is very, very good.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

In which Duana fledges and flies (and also trots and canters some)

Du texted me:
The bird has left the nest.
Repeat: The bird has left the nest.

First time hitching, loading, and hauling her own horse solo. 

Our Duana and Hana have come a very long way from that first ride back in 2011.  Lots of trail miles, lots of arena work, and lots of time have given this pair a bunch of confidence they didn't have before.

These days, they are a great team.

When the text arrived, Fiddle was ready.

Toss me the keys, I'll drive!

Sunshine on Easter morning at the trailhead: it will either be wall-to-wall, or we'll have the place to ourselves.

We weren't the only trail users, but pretty close.

We wanted to do some exploration.

Such a pretty day. Let's see if we can get lost....

With just two people and two horses, it's easier to go a bit off the usual course. Large groups have chaos inherent, there's no need to seek more. 

We practice our dressage lessons on the trail now

We followed our usual track for the first 11 miles.

Good footing

Mostly sunny skies

Up through the clear cut

This is a tiny bit of trail that connects two logging roads

We needed to find the route around the tiny bit of trail.

When I saw our friend Linda at the trailhead last week she described the alternate route.

Follow the main logging road all the way and turn right on 15th

(This is 3-4 miles further on the logging road than we usually go)

It included some REAL road, which Fiddle hates.

Duana was busy pretending we were on equi-tour of the Loire Valley

The road is not a busy one but we were passed by a Canadian tour bus (?!?!) clearly lost. We were miles from the freeway and the malls!

Turn right on 300th, and follow (not far) to the dead end.

At the dead end, we found a familiar gate, and we were back on home trails again!

We ride this trail every week!

When she knew we weren't lost, Fee picked up the pace again.

Hana can keep up with her large friend
most of the time, but I sometimes hear her
cussing when Fee jets ahead up a hill

On the way out to the monument, we ran into Linda and Count. Last year I was lucky to see them once a month, but we've run into them on the trails three times in the last week!

She was pleased that we followed her directions and didn't get lost

Up to the monument for a quick lunch break.

Rain clouds approaching

Eat like an endurance team so we can beat the rain
back to the trailhead!


Fiddle helps trim the edges around the monument

We made it almost all the way back before rain started falling.

20.22 miles in 4:17, including lunch and orientation delays. Not bad!

Hard to hurry through this good grass,
even on the way back to the trailer

And when we got back

Du loaded her own horse into her own trailer, and drove away.

So proud!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

In which electrolytes are discussed and (hopefully) de-mystified

If there's anything that boggles Green Bean endurance riders 
(and experienced competitors too!)
it's the topic of electrolytes.

The not-very-secret electrolyte recipe we use.
This generates enough electrolytes for two typical horses on an average 50.
Please note that this makes 14 of what most people call a "double dose."
We call it a single dose.  

The consensus among riders and vets is clear: elytes are absolutely vital for competition, totally optional for competition, or  completely contraindicated for competition.   

The best brand of electrolytes is definitely Endura Max.  
Unless it's Dyna Spark.  
Or possibly Northern Lytes.  
Or Stress Dex.  
Or Electo Ease, Acculyte, Finish Line, or some homemade formula mix made of lite salt and Tums.  

For mixers, everyone uses applesauce.
Except those who use yogurt.  
Or Maalox.  
Or Pro-CMC.  Or water.  Or Gatorade.  Or beer.

So, that's not confusing at all.  Right?
Photo: M. Bretherton

I take electrolytes very seriously.  If you don't, or you don't know why you should, I direct you to two articles written by Susan Garlinghouse, DVM.  As with everything Doc Garlinghouse writes, these articles make complex issues relatively easy to understand.  Her science is sound, and her writing is clear.  

The publisher of Endurance 101 has mirrored the articles to keep them safe for eternity.  Go there now and learn:

In this post, I'll describe what Hana gets for 50-mile rides.  

I will also describe what Fiddle gets.  These two things are not the same.

Hana is pretty typical of endurance horses in our camp.

14.2 hand Arab mare.  Chestnut. 19 years old, about 800 pounds.
Usually finishes 50-milers in 8-8.5 hours.
Photo: M. Bretherton  

Hana eats well, drinks well, and keeps a good steady pace on the trail.  She is not a voracious eater, but she isn't picky either.  She will not eat every speck of her beet pulp, so we can't dump stuff into her feed and be absolutely certain that she got it all.  All her electrolytes are delivered via syringe.

Here is Hana's electrolyte regimen for a normal 50-mile ride in average terrain:

Thursday (ride day -2) : nothing.

Friday (ride day -1) Since this is the day before a ride, she may get a dose in the afternoon, and definitely gets a dose at bedtime.

Saturday (ride day) :
1 full dose before the start line.
1 dose at each vet check.
1 dose after the finish line.
1 dose at bedtime.

Hana also gets regular doses of OTC Jug and a probiotic during 50-milers,
which seems to keep her energy level strong and stable.

If any of the loops are especially long (20 miles, or 3+ hours), or if the weather is especially hot, Hana may get an additional dose or half-dose on the trail at about the mid-way point of the loop.

Sunday (post ride day, usually a travel day):  1 dose before departure.  Sometimes a dose with dinner.

Fiddle is less typical.

16 hand Standardbred mare. Dark bay.  13 years old.  About 1100 pounds.
Usually finishes 50-milers in 7-7.5 hours.
Photo: M. Bretherton

Fee's electrolyte needs are significantly higher.  She is a voracious eater of beet pulp and hay, and she is pretty good about drinking water at puddles, tanks, or whatever.  I can throw supplements into her mash overnight and be sure that she will get all of it, but if I'm in a hurry (to leave camp at the end of a vet check, for example), she gets a syringe.

I also substitute Pro-CMC for some or all of the applesauce in the electrolyte recipe if we are going further than 50 miles, or if the going will be slow (and thus, requiring more doses).

Here's Fiddle's regimen for a typical 50-mile ride in terrain of average difficulty:

Wednesday night:  a scoop of EnduraMax in her beet pulp.  This is in addition to the twice-daily 1-oz scoop of salt in her beet pulp.

Thursday: (usually a travel day): a dose  of electrolytes before departure, and another dose at bedtime.

Friday (ride day -1) : a dose after breakfast and again at bedtime.

Saturday (ride day) :
1 full dose before the start line.
1/2 dose every 60-90 minutes on the trail, unless a vet check is near.
1 full dose at each vet check.
1 full dose after the finish line.
1 full dose at bedtime.
I use wide-mouth ketchup bottles to store the elytes in my saddle bag.
A syringe will fit through the mouth of the bottle to suck up a dose.
With practice, it's possible to fill the syringe and dose the horse from the saddle.

Sunday (usually a travel day): a dose of electrolytes before departure and another dose after dinner.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday:  any electrolytes left over from the event are squirted onto her beet pulp until they are used up.

*It's important to note that, whenever possible, we also squirt a syringe or two of water into the horse's mouth after dosing.  This helps prevent mouth sores.

But how do I know that Fiddle needs so much more?
Experience (and doing things wrong) has taught me that my big, dark, heavy-muscled, fast-moving horse needs more elytes than any other horse I've used in competition.  If her heartrate hangs up, if she's reluctant to eat or drink on the trail, if she sandbags at mile 30 when she would normally be jogging along happily, it's almost always because I didn't give her enough.

One time it was cool and lovely (60 degrees, light breeze) on the trail, so I didn't dose her as heavily as usual, but the ground was soggy and made the WORK a lot harder.  We had to pull at 25 miles that day, because she got tired and peed pink.  Totally my fault.

So what does that mean for you and for your horse?
If your horse is fairly typical (in other words, similar in size, shape, age, and breeding to Hana), you can start with a routine similar to hers.  Tinker with the dosage sizes in training, giving more or less, and keep track of the horse's response.

(NOTE: few horses will ever like electrolytes.  It's like eating a salt sandwich.  Blech.)

Mess around with your heart rate monitor, and see if the electrolytes improve recovery.  Pay attention to your horse's willingness to eat and drink while using the electrolytes.  Some horses refuse to eat with the salt taste in their mouths, others don't seem to care.  Most will drink water more readily on the trail if they are given electrolytes before leaving the trailhead.

If your horse is larger, darker, moving significantly faster than Hana, or going over extreme terrain at speed, don't be surprised if you need more electrolytes to maintain a metabolic balance.  (You did read those Garlinghouse articles, didn't you?)

It would be lovely if there was an app for this.  You know, a nifty little gadget on my phone that would tell me how much to dose, at what intervals, given each horse's specific needs.

But that doesn't exist (yet).

So, the best practice right now is for riders to experiment, pay attention to results, and be prepared to change things according to the results.

Comments, questions, thoughts, anecdotes?

The box is open.