Sunday, October 26, 2014

The OD Fort Valley 30 Mile Ride T-1

My plan for the Fort Valley ride was to leave the barn around 10 am and get to base camp at about noon.  Check-in didn't start until 2 and vetting in didn't start until 3, so arriving between noon and 1 would give me plenty of time to get Nimo settled in ahead of time.  I also wanted to make sure I had taken care of all my stuff before Liz and Saiph were done with the 50-mile ride that they were doing.  I didn't really know how long they were expecting to take to finish, but I wanted to be able to help out if I could.

The first thing I needed to do was to pack all my stuff.  I'm sure you're thinking that I should have done that already and you would be right.  However, I am a procrastinator through and through and I figured that picking up the corral panels I needed for Nimo's pen on the Monday before the ride was advance planning.  So that's how it came to be Friday morning with none of my stuff packed.  Luckily, I had thought about what I needed to bring and how I would organize the truck and trailer.  I even made a bunch of lists on my phone, so I wouldn't forget anything.  Then I decided that the lists were really just too overwhelming because there were so many things on them, so I never looked at them again.

The corral panels were already loaded from when I had picked them up, so I spent a few minutes re-organizing things in the trailer so there would be room for Nimo.  Then I just started putting things I thought I would need into the truck - water, food, clothes, sleeping bag, pillow.  When it looked like I'd packed enough stuff, I quit, took a shower, and headed out for the barn.

At the barn, there wasn't much to pack aside from the usual things I pack for our conditioning rides.  I threw in an extra set of brushes, a bale of hay, and just random stuff that I thought might be useful - hoof rasp, extra bucket, clippers, yarn (for braiding Nimo's mane), extra shims for the saddle, extra saddle pad...Anyway, once I looked in my tack locker and didn't see anything else that looked like I might need it, I got Nimo, washed his mane (to make braiding easier) and loaded him.  He was not super happy about sharing his space with the corral panels, and my intention is to eventually have them mounted on brackets on the outside of the trailer (I'll probably get that done a week before my next ride...), but we were all set.

And we headed out (about half an hour after I'd planned, but no big deal).  Our trip to base camp was remarkably uneventful.  Because we did the Intro ride at Fort Valley last year, I sort of remembered the way, which was good, because the OD directions were not that great.  In fact, I'm not sure how I figured out how to get there last year.  I must have spent some time looking at maps (and I do have a vague memory about having to turn around at one point).  Anyway, I know the area a little better now, so aside from a minor panic attack when I thought I might have missed a turn (turning around in the mountains on tiny roads with no shoulders is doable but not fun), we made it there with no problem.

I got Nimo out of the trailer, tied him up with some hay, and unloaded the corral panels.  They weigh about 50 pounds each, so they aren't the light-weight kind, but I was able to get Nimo's pen set up in less than 10 minutes while people with the electric fencing were still messing around with their set-ups.  I choose these corral panels because Nimo is a big horse who isn't necessarily that phased by electricity.  I've seen him get shocked by electric wire and just sort of blink, so I didn't feel comfortable using an electric pen for him.  And I didn't want to use the lighter-weight panels because they tend to be short with big spaces between the bars that are perfect for enterprising horses (like Nimo) to insert their heads and legs through.  Anyway, I was pretty happy with his pen, which was sort of a diamond shape made out of 6 10-foot long panels that were 5 feet high.  The space was bigger than a typical stall, so he had plenty of room to move around.  I was kind of worried that he would be anxious in the new set-up, but he settled right in eating grass and was perfectly happy.

With Nimo taken care of, I re-organized my stuff so I could sleep in the back seat of the truck and then I walked around camp to get oriented and I checked the vet check to see if Liz and Saiph happened to be vetting in (they weren't).  With some time to kill before I needed to check in, I set up my chair, grabbed a soda, and ate leftover pizza for lunch.  At about 2 o'clock, I wandered over to the registration area and checked-in.  The ride packet was basically a schedule of the ride times, my ride card, and two meal tickets.  I have to admit that I was expecting a bit more, like maybe a map or information about how the trails were marked or any trouble spots.

Then I just hung out for awhile until we could vet in.  (For those without an endurance background, the vet-in process is a quick exam that checks things like heart rate, capillary re-fill, gut sounds, general appearance and soundness and fitness through a trot-out that involves trotting 125 feet, turning around at the walk, and then trotting 125 feet back.  The process is repeated after each loop during the ride and at the end to make sure the horse is still in good shape and recovering well.)  About 20 minutes before the vetting, I got Nimo out of his pen and let him walk around and eat grass.  Finally it was time to head over to the vetting area.  And we got quite the reception.  I know one of the ladies who was volunteering there, and she adores Nimo, so she made a big fuss over him.  And then other people started making a big fuss over him and one guy (I think maybe a vet) wanted his picture taken with Nimo.  It was kind of crazy.  On the one hand, it's awesome that everyone was so supportive of me riding a non-Arab (actually, I think it might just be the novelty of a Friesian), but it was a little overwhelming.  We vetted through just fine, although there was a bit of a struggle to see who would actually get to vet him because more than one person wanted to do it.  I should probably disclose that I have never practiced the trot-out with Nimo.  We did it last year at the Endurance 101 clinic and he was fine, and I do ground work with him occasionally, and he follows me pretty well, so I never felt compelled to work on it (there's that procrastination thing again).  That said, while Nimo was a bit slow to start trotting, he otherwise handled the exam and trot-out just fine.  (Yay for procrastination.)  We got all A's!

Nimo in his pen after the vet-check.

After we finished the exam, more people wanted to fawn over Nimo and chat, so we hung out there for awhile before heading back to the trailer.  It was at that point that my suspicion that I managed to park behind Liz and Saiph was confirmed.  I thought I recognized their trucks and trailers and when we were coming back from the vetting, there they were!  They were in the middle of a hold before their last loop.  I put Nimo away and came back over to see if they needed anything.  There really wasn't much I could do at that point, and Saiph had trained her husband, Charles, very well, so I just chatted for a few minutes and wished them luck.

While they were gone, I decided to relax a little with a book and then braid Nimo's mane.  The temperature would be quite cool that evening, but the high for the next day was expected to be 70 or above and I wanted to braid Nimo's mane to help with cooling because he already had about half of his winter coat grown in.  I do want to say that I also considered clipping him before the ride.  But with winter approaching, I didn't want to have to blanket through the winter just because of one ride.  I thought about just doing the jugular area, but I finally decided against any clipping (although I did bring my cordless clippers in case I changed my mind).  My plan was just to keep an eye on him and if he looked like he was overheating, we'd slow down or pull.

I also braided green and red ribbons into Nimo's tail.  The ride management was pretty insistent that new riders/horses have a green ribbon in the tail and I added the red ribbon to help keep people from riding up on Nimo's butt before passing.  He is not a kicker except in the situation where somebody comes up behind us much faster than we are going and comes in close beside us.  He's never made contact with anyone, but he has given warning kicks and pinned his ears a few times, so I wanted to at least give people fair warning.  My personal feeling is that if you engage in that kind of rude trail behavior, you sort of deserve what you get, but on the other hand, I didn't want someone's horse to get kicked because the rider was an idiot.

Probably around 6:30, I headed back over to the vet check area to see if Liz and Saiph were back yet because Liz had mentioned that their goal was to get back by about 6:30.  As it turned out, they were back.  I'll let Liz and Saiph tell their stories, but one thing I was able to do was to get Liz a jacket because she was still in a t-shirt and with darkness falling, the temperature had come way down from the high of 70, so she was freezing.

Around 7:30, I headed over to get dinner and attend the ride meeting.  Dinner was the biggest taco salad I've ever seen and PUMPKIN PIE.  I love pumpkin pie.  I would eat 3 pieces every day if I could.  And there has been a severe shortage of pumpkin pie in our area.  I love the pie that our grocery store bakery makes and for some reason, they no longer make it.  Ever.  And while I'm perfectly capable of making my own pumpkin pie, it's always better from the grocery store.  So I haven't had pumpkin pie in forever and it made my day that I got a piece.

It was really dark by then and while I did know some people at the ride, I couldn't see well enough to find someone I knew, so I just sat wherever (Liz and Saiph were still taking care of their horses).  The ride meeting was supposed to start at 7:30, but it took awhile to get going.  Anyway, first they went through information about the Asgard Arabian that was going to be raffled off, the vendors and sponsors, and the awards for that day's rides (the Fort Valley ride offers 30 and 50 mile rides on both Friday and Saturday), and then finally they started talking about the trails.  To be honest, it wasn't really that helpful.  For one thing, it was getting cold, and I was freezing.  I don't focus well when I'm cold and what I really wanted was a 5-minute summary of how the trail was marked, any potential trouble spots, and the pulse cut-off (sometimes the pulse cut-off is 64 and sometimes it is 60).  I also really wanted a trail map.  It's not that I'm a great map reader, but even a general map that isn't drawn to scale can help if there is a trail junction and you're not sure which way to go.  Plus, it sounded like a few riders had gone off trail during Friday's rides due to missing ribbons or a confusing turn, and I wanted to make sure that didn't happen to me.  I expected it to be a struggle to ride the miles we were supposed to ride and I didn't want to add anything.  Anyway, there was no map, so I would have to rely on the trail markings to get through.  And while the pulse cut-off for the 50-milers was 64, it was 60 for the 30-milers.  And we were reminded that the 50-milers had 30 minutes to pulse down after finishing and those 30 minutes would not be counted as ride time, but the 30-milers had to be pulsed down to 60 by the end of the maximum ride time.  Let me just say that as a newcomer, that discrepancy seems stupid.  I don't understand it.  I get that riding 50 miles is harder than riding 30 miles, but to have to factor pulse-down time into your ride time is annoying.  I could see if they said that you had to be pulsed down in a shorter amount of time for a 25-30 mile distance (say 15-20 minutes instead of 30), but it's very frustrating to have a different standard.

After the meeting, I tracked down Liz and Saiph and mostly hung out with them for the rest of the evening.  I did do about a half hour walking/grazing session with Nimo before bed and then I climbed into my truck for what I was desperately hoping would be a full night's sleep...Yeah, right.  I had purchased a sleeping bag that was rated for 0 degrees because the temperature was supposed to be around 40, but in the mountains, it can be hard to predict and and it can get cold.  So I figured I'd be really overshooting what I needed with my super fabulously-reviewed sleeping bag.  I changed into my breeches for the next day (they are so comfortable and I figured it would save time the next morning) and put another pair of pants over them.  Then I put on my t-shirt for riding and a fleece jacket on top.  And for good measure, I dragged one of Nimo's fleece coolers into the sleeping bag too.  Then I climbed into my sleeping bag and expected to be overcome with warmth and happiness while I drifted off to a peaceful sleep.

That did not happen.  The temperature continued to fall and I got colder and colder.  By 1 o'clock I was shivering and in danger of hypothermia.  Remembering Saiph's post about having to turn on the truck to warm up last year when she rode at Fort Valley, I started my truck and turned the heat on full blast for about 25 minutes (I read somewhere that you should run your car/truck for at least 20 minutes if you start it or you risk running down the battery).  That got me toasty warm, but I was faced with the dilemma of knowing that as soon as I turned the truck off, the temperature would rapidly get colder again (my truck thermometer said it was 36 degrees outside).  So I put on another sweatshirt with a hood and then my light winter jacket with a hood on top of that.  I put both hoods on my head and in a fit of inspiration I put my Back on Track mini-blanket on my pillow.  If you've never tried the Back on Track products, they are basically ceramic-infused material that is supposed to reflect your body heat back to you to create a gentle warming for healing sore muscles.  I've had some success with the mini-blanket and sometimes sleep on it if my shoulder that is prone to spasms is bothering me.  Anyway, it occurred to me that the worst problem was how cold my head felt, so I wondered if the heat from the mini-blanket would help.  And it did.  With my added layers and the warm blanket on my pillow, I finally managed to drift off to sleep for maybe an hour or two.  When I woke up, I wasn't sure what time it was, but I still felt warm.  I was however, uncomfortable from sleeping on the stupid truck seat.  There wasn't a good way to turn over and even shifting to my back ruined the effect of having my check on the blanket on my pillow.  So I tossed and turned and finally heard some kind of crazy commotion at around 4:30.  The hunting dogs on the property we were staying at went nuts and then somebody was talking on the loudspeaker and it was colossally annoying.  I wasn't able to get back to sleep and I could tell Nimo was up and would very much like breakfast.  I ignored him, not wanted to get out of the truck, but by 5:50, I decided it was time to get up and start getting ready for our big ride.


  1. I hate being cold too and I tend to get cold easily (hence why I'm back home in Florida!) - hope that the lack of sleep didn't hurt your ride too much.

  2. I am SO EXCITED to hear the rest of this!

    A note on lighter panels: they're more human-friendly, but determined and smart horses can figure out how to push them around. I'm with you on liking heavier panels and I may end up going that route down the road.

  3. It was awesome getting to hang out with you on this day...even if it was while my mare was getting IV fluids afterwards. Thank you for helping Charles and for being there.

    The Back on Track blanket idea is brilliant!

    And OMG I LOVE pumpkin pie too...I hadn't realized there was a shortage. But that explains why the pumpkin pie we brought to the potluck the night before disappeared within 10 minutes! Haha...