Monday, June 22, 2015

Return to Sunriver

Or Spook for 80 Miles

I was really excited when I found out Lois was having an 80 mile ride at Sunriver this year. I planned early on to do the 80 if we were going to Tevis or the 100 if we were not. 
I made the final decision after Still Memorial that we were going to Tevis. It is not a decision I made lightly, but more about that later. 

I wanted to do another longer distance ride before Tevis. Originally I had the 75 at Grizzly on the table, but due to other circumstances it didn't happen. I didn't feel the need to condition him as hard as I had for OR 100 the year before, he returned to that level without as much conditioning. I worked on longer trots, up and down hills interspersed with some faster work. 10 miles would seem to come and go quickly. 

I have been using Easyboots for conditioning rides. Regular pain old original Easyboots. I had come to the conclusion with Journey that i couldn't screw up her feet any more than they already have been but a multitude of different farriers over the 6 years I have owned her. So I learned to trim on your typical awful thoroughbred feet. After all the farrier issues with Quick I said screw it, I'll just do it myself. That leaves my options limited to boots. I need to learn how to glue on boots, but that will come later. It is a big step from trimming my weekend warrior thoroughbred to a high preformance endurance horse. Like I said, I couldn't do any worse to Journey than had already been done. (And that doesn't just count for last year, and yes that blog post will be coming soon for those of you who do not know what happened) But I can get away with not being perfect with Journey and it not affecting her overall soundness(but she has gotten sounder) whereas if I screw up with Quick the miles we put in will tell. I do have a back up plan and a farrier that I am willing to try if I need shoes put on him. Let's face it, shoes are easy. They only become a problem when the horse loses one. I have looked into farrier school, but it is a couple grand and I would have to take an entire term off of work. Not going to happen. There are a couple Pete Ramey clinics that I am seriously considering going to. And I did pick up a Pete Ramey book Making Natural Hoof Care Work for You. Despite that everyone I have talked to says I am doing a good job with his hooves. The farriers don't like the 'mustang roll' around his hoof but otherwise they say he is nicely balanced. 
Just another thing I have learned because of the chestnut thoroughbred mare. 

So back to booting. I snapped a cable on a brand new boot on Wednesday. When the boots work they are great, when they don't I want to pull my hair out. Luckily Paula had a replacement cable for the old Easyboots. I was able to use it to replace the one that busted. After calling EasyCare and trying not to get super angry. Boots should break on the second use.  I mean if it was an old pre 2005 boot that I had bought for $5 used then, oh well but a brand new boot that I had only used once before is another matter entirely! 

The last time I was at Sunriver was two years ago when I attempted my first 100. We got 68 miles into the ride, out at vet check 2, when Quick came up lame.  Which was caused by the gullet having come loose in the wintec on one side so it put uneven pressure on his back. Despite that I couldn't have been more proud of Quick. Even though we were pulled he still did extremely well. At that point he was still mentally and emotionally very immature. We had only been doing a couple solo rides. Yet we did 25 miles by ourselves! I went out and bought my Ortho-flex shortly thereafter. I love the Ortho-flex, it is by far one of the most comfortable saddles I have ridden in. It reminds me a lot of my Stuebben. Perhaps it is because it has a Frank Baines tree. I have done 375 competition miles in it since I got it. Quick was a bit sore after Still Memorial this year, so I rechecked the saddle fit. The panels do flex enough to allow his shoulder to move but they are more snug than I would like. It is probably the lateral work I have been incorporating into our rides or the downhill trotting that has built up his shoulders. So I moved to my Free n Easy all purpose saddle. It is what I have been riding Diesel in because it is the only saddle that is both wide enough for his Akhal-teke shoulders and flexes to conform to his long Akhal-teke back. And Journey loves it too. The biggest saddle test is whether or not Journey likes it. The only problem about having one saddle is that I can't leave all my stuff on it when I have been doing shows with the bay-bies. A cantle pack and boot bag aren't exactly smiled upon at dressage shows or events. Even schooling ones. 
While the F n E isn't a bad saddle it just isn't my favorite as far as my comfort. It isn't horrible, I was just spoiled by the Othro-flex. My full sheepskin cover pulls the flaps in and rounds them since it was made for the straighter dressage flaps of the Ortho-flex. I decided to go without it since it bothered me on a Journey ride. Those are rather short and only walking, so probably not what I would want to deal with for 80 miles of mostly trotting. I decided to go with just the seat cover I had for it. 

My goal for the ride was one thing- completion. This was my trial run before Tevis to make sure everything was going to work out. I had never done an endurance ride in the F n E let alone a long distance one. I had purchased a Matrix Woolback pad with my birthday money ( I really wanted a GoPro but the pad was more useful since I was looking for a longer one anyway) I had been having a weird dry spot after rides and realized when I put the saddle in the trailer that the panels were not even, I must not have put them back on evenly after adjusting the saddle last. I corrected that before the ride. 

I drove over. It was my first time hauling the pass over highway 58. I have done Santiam pass a number of times, both up and down but never Willimatte pass. 

The first thing Quick did as soon as we got there was roll. It was super dusty, felt like I had been riding in a dusty indoor. So much for giving him a bath. I visited Diana at American Trail Gear to get a leash for Leigh. I also saw the cutest little kitten on a leash. And refrained from shopping too much but picked up some new ties for Quick's mane. Usually I trim it pretty short since it tends to look scraggly long. I couldn't find my razor that I use to trim in and I I didnt have a sharp pair of scissors so it didn't get done. But that left enough mane to braid! 

Quick was hot at the start. Not sure if it was the alfalfa I had bought, it was super leafy or all the Ultimum he had been getting. He was ready to go, lacking a little direction but ready. He was booted on all four, electrical tape with duct tape over the buckles. And splint boots on all four legs. Because He will have splint boots on for Tevis and this ride was to make sure everything worked. 
We went out in the front of the middle of the pack. There were 23 on the 100 and 6 on the 80. We got behind Becky and her group and ate a lot of dust. But it was good to see how Quick would do stuffed behind horses, since that is how it would be at Tevis. We got around them, missed a turn then were behind them again. Got around them again and not ten strides later Quick let out a big spook. I heard someone exclaim behind me, but I had staid on. Righted myself, put my leg on and off we went. 

The sunrise was beautiful, I wish I had had a better camera to take photos, but there are things you just cannot do with a point n shoot in low light while riding. 

We were caught by Pam on her lovely Paint mare. She was going a bit faster than I wanted but Quick would not be told to slow down. Half halts only got his back up and from there he opened up to a really amazing extended trot. We soon caught up to the couple from California, Pam went on and I staid behind with them. I totally forgot their names! It was funny enough we ended up talking about plastic horseshoes since I noticed his horse had on plastics that I didn't recognize. He said they were Sneakers, and he has found that they hold up better than others. They live on the Tevis trail. They said they are lucky where they live in that many of the farriers have endurance experience. Where here most farriers just shoe arena horses and weekend trail horses. There is a big difference in the two. 

Pam had taken a wrong turn and came up behind us, then we all missed a turn. We turned around and found where we were supposed to go. It was up a hill under the powerlines. Pam went first and Quick took charge and dashed up the hill like it was nothing leaving the couple behind us. We followed Pam, who was going a touch slower or maybe it was because we were going up hill that it didn't feel so out of control. I asked her about her mare and she said she was half thoroughbred Paint, no Arab at all. A nice mare. She thought she missed a ribbon, and turned around. But we were on the right section, the fun single track. Quick zoomed around, he really enjoys the single track and so do I. She also gave me some tips on riding Tevis. 

We came into the River Vet check. For some reason Quick was a bit unsettled there. He didn't pulse down right away, he wouldn't do more than sip the water, he was just interested in moving around and eating grass. It didn't take him long to pulse down, but not his usual drop within minutes of coming in. We weren't going that fast and it wasn't that hot yet. We vetted through. It was only a 15 minute hold so Quick munched on some grass and I refilled my water bottles. The tape had come off of the front of the boots, but they were stuck tight. Off we went. I rode the next loop by myself. Pam was leading the 80 with Celena right behind her. There were 2 on the 100 who were in front of them. We were in a good spot, right where I wanted to be. And it was nice to be by ourselves. Quick spooked at the photographer.
Photo by Cassidy Rae Photography

We were only a couple miles from camp when we turned onto a road and Quick asked to walk. I let him. I heard bells behind us and saw Heather and Bunny coming down the road. Quick heard them too and he took off! I had to laugh. I told him he couldn't out trot a Standardbred. He wasn't listening.

We came into camp and Quick finally tanked up at the water. He hadn't been interesting in drinking more than a mouthful the entire time. It made me feel better when he drank. He pulsed down right away and we vetted through. I had time to visit with Leigh, who gets really upset when he is left alone in the trailer with Mollie. He is rather attached to me. Quick ate and drank. Paula found a small rub under one of Quick's splint boots. I switched him to the smaller ankle boots. I believe the rub was just a bare patch of hair he had before, so not really a rub but still something to keep my eye on nevertheless.

Off we went again. We were doing the same loop that we started out on back to the River Vet Check. I had to slow down, the footing had gotten really deep with all of the horses going over it. We made time and ran into a couple mountain bikers. Quick was starting to do his mid day drag when Heather and Bunny caught us. We finished our first 100 with Heather and Bunny last year at OR 100. I had hoped to ride with Heather at least a little bit during this ride! We passed some more mountain bikes. Bunny was leading the way. She is such a nice mare, and it was cool to watch her just effortlessly extend her trot. We talked about how our seasons had been going and how there was going to be a race for the Standardbred breed award this year. It was so nice to get to ride with Heather again!!

At the River Check Paula had hitched a ride with the gal who was camped next to us. Her riders were going slower than I was, but they had made it just in time! Quick still didn't like the out check so when he didn't pulse down right away I wasn't worried. We pulled tack and he started munching away. His pulse dropped and we vetted through. I still don't know what is was about that check that bothered him. He didn't do it at any other check. I lengthened my stirrups one hole as my knees had been taking the brunt of the abuse. I remember reading somewhere that if your knees hurt your stirrups are too short. I tend to ride with shorter stirrups in the Fn E because I have been using it for jumping, and it is an all purpose saddle. It isn't designed specifically for longer stirrups like the dressage Ortho-Flex. There was a lot of downhill on that first loop.

Celena and Pam took off for their next loop. There is nothing like watching a thoroughbred pick up a canter and take flight. Poor Quick was in the middle of a tinkle and stopped to watch them go, he wanted to go with them. Took him a minute or so to resume his business. Heather and Bunny took off ahead of us. This was the part of the ride I wanted to ride alone. I wanted to be able to push Quick to keep a steady pace after we hit the 50 mile mark. We left with 30 miles to go on the blue loop. It would take us out to the second vet check where I got pulled two years ago then back into camp. Quick kept a nice steady pace. He drank at the water tanks, thank God! I remember when you make the turn off of where the blue and yellow were together that it felt odd. I kept asking myself if I was going the right direction, but the hoof prints in the sand were going the right way. And the blue and white ribbons were on the right. One of the things Heather had said when while we were riding together was about a new to endurance horse that would go from side to side on the trail and not straight. I replied Quick still does that, but it was more spooking from side to side. As we turned towards the outcheck Quick started spooking at everything. Every time he jumped from side to side it jarred my knees. We walked. Then when I would ask for a trot the spooking would start. So we continued in this fashion, walk trot-spook walk again... The road seemed to get longer and longer. I knew we were close to the out check. I didn't feel my knees could take pushing him into a canter and riding through the spooks that way. He still jumps from side to side they just are not as violent as try can be when he is just trotting. Finally I had had enough I picked up contact (I usually ride with pretty loose reins) and pushed him into a trot. It didn't make him stop spooking and I just gave up and walked in. 

He pulsed down and vetted through. I asked if anyone had any pain killers and sure enough I got some ibruprofen. Heather and Bunny were there.They left about the time the two groups of 100s came in behind me. I was surprised that the couple on the 80 weren't in front of them. Apparently they had taken a wrong turn and came in just as I was leaving.  Quick and I were off. We had 16 miles left to camp. I started off at a trot, having lengthened my stirrups again. My knees felt better. But I felt less secure. I debated dropping my vest somewhere because I had a scratch under my arm that was stinging. Instead I pulled out some vet wrap and wrapped it around my arm as we were walking. 

The spooking started again and I shortened my stirrups back a hole to where they were before. And tried trotting again. Spook spook spook. That was it. I pushed him into a canter. It was getting to te point of ridiculousness. We cantered up the small rise. I didn't want to be cantering at this point. There was no reason to aside from it is the easiest gait to ride the Spookaloosa in... The spooking culminated in a huge real spook at a rock. He jumped to the side of the trail, his neck arched and snorting at it. Wouldn't go near it, still snorting, but back on the trail. Snort snort leg on, back up snort more leg. Finally he touched it then walked over it. He gave the next rock the hairy eyeball as well. It was one of those moments that you just shake your head at. Of all things Quick can spook at it is the least threatening. Rocks trees sticks..... Not tents, mountain bikers you know the actually scary stuff.
I scratched his withers and basically told him that I was here for him and the sooner we get to camp the sooner he is done. Quick is a really emotional horse. He gets upset easily if he gets reprimanded or there is too much pressure put on him.  I remember the first time I stuck one of his dirty spooks, I didn't do anything but sit there and he was shaking he was so upset. We have gotten past that for the most part. He now will spook mostly forward but you still have to be on your guard. 
The spooks winded down and we continued on. Quick started to want to eat everything in sight, so I would let him stop eat and move on. I was in no hurry but tried to keep going at a reasonable pace. I wanted him to eat, at this stage of the ride it was important for him to eat. 
Karen and te rider with her caught me before the water set and I followed them to it. There seemed to not be enough water on this loop, it was in the heat of the day and much of the trail was blue one direction and yellow the other. The 100s would be riding the yellow loop next and the 50s had already ridden it. Quick tanked up, I did a quick sponge on his neck to cool him ad have him his electrolytes. The group of three riders were not far behind and I asked if Karen and the other rider would mind if I went on. They said it was okay so we left. 
I set my goal to be into camp between 5:30 and 6. We didn't hurry but kept up a steady pace. My knees would only bother me the first couple strides of trot after a walk break. As we neared the end I could tell the group of three riders were catching up to us. I would see them coming down the hill and then would loose them as we went up. 
Now this whole time Quick felt great. I wasn't pushing him just going. However my heart rate monitor which had been so trusty at Still Memorial was making me second guess myself. He would either be trotting along at 97 or well over 200. Like 240. So I was pretty sure it was double counting. So I turned it off and just rode by feel. I think I have come to rely on the hr monitor too much, it is great for when I am conditioning to see his recovery times or how hard he is working based on the effort we are doing. But I wasn't happy with it at this ride. 
We stopped and ate a bunch again and the group of 3 riders caught is and brought us into camp. 
I went back and forth about showing for BC. Quick never has shown well and I figured between Celena and Pam, one of them would win. We came in at about 5:40, so right where I wanted to be. The deciding factor for not showing for BC was my knees. The thought of having to run again in an hour was just not on my list. 
80 mile EasyBoots! 
Heather and Bunny were headed out on their last loop on the 100. They were in second place. I got Quick settled in, poulticed and went to rest my knees. I staid up to see Heather come in after 10pm. Then went to bed.

Someone had a fit about 6 am the next morning. I woke up with a start to banging on the corral outside. Quick was running around bucking and throwing his head. I went out and gave him his breakfast. He just pulled on his fly mask and looked at me. So we went for a walk. 
He was still not pleased with the small walk when I put him back. He pulled on his fly mask again and gave me the look. I told him to eat and give me another half hour. 
He was still throwing his head around an running in his corral while I tried to close my eyes for a few more minutes. The horse at the trailer parked next to is had gone for a walk, that is what started it! Obviously there was a lot of horse left!