Sunday, November 2, 2014

The OD Fort Valley 30 Mile Ride - What Worked and What Didn't

I debated about whether a full review of what worked and what didn't was necessary for this ride, but I realized that because I often can't remember what day it is, it might be a good idea for me to write up what I did at this ride, so I can remember for next time.  Hopefully, it will be helpful for some of you too:)

Note:  I'm putting links to products wherever I can, so you can check out the items for yourself if you're interested.  However, I bought all of these products with my own money and I don't get any financial compensation for a review or because you click on the link.

Pre-Ride Conditioning

I originally wrote up my ideal conditioning schedule in this post.  The short version is that I wanted to do 2 days of dressage schooling/lessons, one day of interval/strength training on the trail, one day of real trail riding/conditiong, one day of lungeing, and one day of handwalking each week, sort of interspersed so that tough schooling sessions or trail rides were followed by lungeing or handwalking.  The idea behind the lungeing and handwalking is a concept called "active rest," where the horse is doing something fairly easy, but still moving, to help maintain fitness.  I'm the first to admit that I don't know a lot about equine physiology or fitness progression (I still can't figure out what the heck a "negative split" is - I keep seeing it mentioned in both running and endurance blogs, but it doesn't sound like fun to me, so I don't like to dwell on it too much), but the idea that you do light exercise in between more challenging workouts makes sense to me.  For example, if I go hiking in the mountains and am really sore the next day, I might take a 20 minute slow walk around the neighborhood just to loosen things up and ease the soreness.  When a horse is turned out 24/7 on a big pasture, I don't know that active rest is necessary because the horse is already getting active rest just by wandering around the pasture for 10-20 miles a day.  But, if a horse is stabled for part or even all of the day, I really believe that active rest can play an important role in keeping the horse free from stiffness and based on some reading I've done lately, I think it could also contribute to overall health.  Anyway, the trick, I think, is to figure out what constitutes a challenging workout versus light exercise for your horse.  When you're first starting a horse or conditioning a horse after a long break, I suspect that there isn't much difference between the two, so giving the horse complete, or passive, rest between workouts probably makes sense.  However, once you have a horse that can do 30 or 50 or even a 100 miles, my guess is that a 5 mile ride of mostly walking would be considered active rest because it really isn't making that much of an impact on the horse's fitness.  In Nimo's case, I decided that active rest meant about 30 minutes of walking and trotting on the lunge, with a minute or two of canter or handwalking for 2-3 miles on flat terrain.  In both of those cases, I also would get some exercise, which I thought was a benefit too.

Regrettably, I fell short of my conditioning goals for most of the months leading up to the Fort Valley ride.  Weather, rain rot, footing, and life just got in the way of me being able to put in the kind of time riding that I wanted to do.  That said, there are a lot of endurance books that advocate riding 2-3 times a week, making sure that you leave time after longer rides for a horse to recover.  That ended up being my de facto schedule.  I would do 1-2 dressage schooling sessions/lessons and 1-2 trail rides each week.  The dressage sessions were generally about an hour and 15 minutes, which included about 30 minutes spent walking/trotting outside the arena around the farm as a warm-up and cool-down, leaving 45 minutes for actual dressage work.  The trail rides were typically between 8 and 12 miles and I tried to vary them by hauling to different locations each week, sometimes focusing just on mountain climbing and sometimes working more on speed over rolling hills.  As the ride approached, I added some additional speed (both on my own and by riding with more experienced endurance riders) and distance, particularly with an 18 mile ride the week before Fort Valley.

In terms of success, well, yes and no:  yes in the sense that Nimo was able to go 30 miles and finish close to the maximum time allowed without any metabolic issues or injuries and no in the sense that we went over the maximum time allowed.  We were close enough, though, for me to think that overall the conditioning we were doing was working.  For the future, I think I'm still going to keep striving for my ideal conditioning schedule, if for no other reason than that by trying to ride 4 days a week, I actually get 2-3 rides a week.  I'm also going to continue to add speed to our rides and make sure we are trotting hills as much as possible.  I think that working on climbing in the mountains is still very important and our previous schedule of going out to the Shenandoah National Park (or other mountain like Graves) every 2-3 weeks is sufficient as long as we can work in some shorter, steep hills in our other rides.

Nimo's Corral

I used 6 10 ft long by 5 ft high Economy Corral Panels from Tractor Supply to create a diamond-shaped corral for Nimo next to the trailer.  The reason I put the corral right next to the trailer was so that I could use the trailer to support the water bucket.  I was worried that 40+ pounds of water hanging off of a corral panel would be too much stress on the panel.  Why didn't you just put a bucket on the ground for Nimo? you ask.  That would be because Friesians are generally black Labs in disguise.  Nimo adores playing in water and I knew he would be too tempted if the water was on the ground.  (He no longer climbs with all four feet into the water tank in his paddock, but he still enjoys getting his feet wet.)  The panels weigh about 50 pounds each, so they aren't lightweight panels.  Instead, they are very secure, solid panels that are meant to hold in livestock that doesn't necessarily want to be there.  While not as heavy-duty as the non-economy panels, they were a little less expensive and still quite sturdy.  I was able to load and unload them from the trailer by myself and set up the corral in less than 10 minutes.  The pins that connect the panels are basically idiot-proof and will not become separated from the panels, which is a nice feature. 

I was a little concerned about how Nimo would react to being in the corral.  He's never camped before and I absolutely did not follow recommendations to practice with the system at home before the ride.  The big reason I didn't practice (aside from the fact that I didn't even buy the panels until a few days before the ride) is that Nimo is a huge lover of routine.  It doesn't really matter what the routine is (as long as it involves him eating most of the time), but any deviation will cause him stress.  So, if I'd set up the corral panels at his barn and left him there overnight, he would have had a nervous breakdown.  By doing it for the first time at the actual ride, I created a new routine for him where one had previously not existed (unless you count last year's Intro Ride where we hauled in the day of the ride, but Nimo clearly didn't.)  And it worked.  He was very calm in the corral until early the morning of the ride when he sensed activity in the camp and heard other horses being fed and even then, he wasn't a basketcase, just definitely wanting to be fed and walked.  Conclusion:  This system is a keeper.  I will definitely be using it from now on.

Human Sleeping Arrangements

After initially thinking that one of those campers that fits on the bed of a truck was a good idea, I discovered that a person needs to be independently wealthy to purchase one, especially if said person also owns a truck, horse trailer, horse, and all associated gear, so said person has already spent the equivalent of a developing nation's GDP.  Then, I thought I would just sleep in my trailer.  I could get a cot or hammock and just set it up after getting to camp.  But to be honest, I just ran out of momentum as the ride approached and I was incapable of making yet another decision about which product was best for the money.  (I've read a couple of studies about how repeated decision-making - even if the decisions seem minor like what to have for lunch or which socks to wear - literally exhausts the executive function of a person's brain, and I had definitely reached my quota of decision-making.)  So I decided to sleep in the backseat of my truck.  I have a 2004 Nissan Titan with a crew cab, so the backseat is pretty spacious, and then I could run the truck if it got too cold, plus have a place not recently coated in horse manure to keep all my stuff.  It turns out that the seat is not really that wide, especially if you've got a giant sleeping bag wadded up in it and the seat is also really hard (I prefer a softer surface as my years advance).  But, I did like being able to have all my stuff with me and easily accessible and being able to run the heater kept me from being a Popsicle by morning.  My solution:  a truck bed tent.  These nifty things do not appear to cost more than a regular tent and by all reports, they are fairly easy to set up, provide good protection from the rain, give a nice amount of space, and with a portable propane heater certified for indoor use, should be nice and warm.  Plus, at least a couple of models don't have a floor, so you can pack all your stuff in the truck bed and just set the tent up over whatever is in the bed.  These are the options I'm currently looking at:  Kodiak Canvas Short Truck Bed Full-Size Tent, Backroadz Truck Tent, Sportz Truck Tent, Rightline Gear Truck Tent.  They are available from Amazon, REI, Cabelas, Pro Bass Shops, and probably other stores that have good camping equipment.

For the actual sleeping part of my experience, I bought the Teton Sports Celsius XXL 0 Degree Fahrenheit Flannel-Lined Sleeping Bag, which was favorably reviewed on Amazon and was rated to zero degrees, which I figured was just enough overkill to make it work for a 35-40 degree night.  I was very wrong.  I needed an extra blanket in the sleeping bag with me, two pairs of pants, a t-shirt, fleece jacket, hooded sweatshirt, and light winter jacket plus a Back on Track mini-blanket on my pillow to stay warm.  Because I slept in the back seat of my truck, I wasn't subject to the additional cold from the ground or an air mattress, but overall, the whole situation is not one that I care to repeat.  I think I got maybe 1-2 hours of sleep, which is not really great when you have to be both mentally and physically prepared for a long ride.  The bag itself seems to be of good quality materials and well-made, but it just didn't work for me in the unheated conditions of my truck.  That said, if I can get a tent and a portable heater, I think the bag will work just fine in the future.

Horse Gear

Saddle - You may remember that I got a Specialized Eurolight saddle a few months ago that I really like (click here to read about my demo experience).  After a 30 mile ride, I still like it.  As far as I can tell, Nimo had no back issues or rubs from the saddle.  Almost as important, I had no soreness or rubs from the saddle either.  I don't understand how my inner thighs could not be sore, but they weren't.  Not even a twinge.  I had no issues with the stirrups either.  They are just the inexpensive plastic, wide endurance stirrups with a cushion on the foot bed (and no cage) that came with the saddle.  And, while my calves were a little sore after the ride, it wasn't a big deal, and they were much less sore than after a 15 mile conditioning ride I'd done a couple of weeks before Fort Valley.  And, there were plenty of d-rings on the saddle to attach all of my saddle bags to.  So far, so good.  This saddle is a keeper.

Saddle bags - I used the Snug Pax Slimline English Pommel Pack and two Easycare Hoof Boot Stowaway Packs strapped to the back of the saddle.  The pommel pack held two bottles of water, a hoof pick, a pair of needle-nosed pliers (to put in and take out the cotter pins on Nimo's Easyboot Epics), a spare pack of cotter pins, my rider card, and 6 carrots (to feed Nimo throughout the ride if there wasn't any grass).  One of the hoof boot bags carried a spare hoof boot.  The other hoof boot bag held a Collapsible Travel Dog Dish that I have started carrying as a way to feed a small mash out on the trail or as a way to hold water for Nimo to drink if he can't access the water himself.  The mash also fits in the bag, or I could put another water bottle in it.  It has become part of my standard gear, so even though I wasn't sure I'd need it for this ride, I left it on the saddle anyway.  The pommel pack worked great.  I've been using it for over a year and I think it has just the right number of pockets and it stays fairly stable even when Nimo is trotting.  The hoof boot bags worked OK, but I felt like they bounced around too much, particularly the one with the hoof boot in it, so I'm going to try to find a way to get them strapped down a little better.  Other than that, the system worked well and I'm planning to keep using it.

Bridle - Earlier this year, I got a halter bridle from Taylored Tack.  (You can read my post about it and see pictures here.)  It was custom-made, but it is basically the Classic Jubilee Halter Bridle with the addition of double ears and Horse Shoe Brand hardware.  When I got the bridle, I was riding in a bit and it worked great.  For the Fort Valley ride, I actually used a Zilco flower hackamore for Nimo and the bridle still worked great.  I will probably devote a whole post to the hackamore in the near future, because it is an unusual type of hackamore and I also want to share my thought process and Nimo's reactions to the switch, but I have no complaints.  This set-up worked really well for the ride and I love that the beta biothane material is so easy to clean.

Breastcollar - I've had a Nunn Finer Hunting Breastplate for many years now.  It is brown with brass hardware and I have never really liked it, but it was all that was available in Nimo's size when I first went to the tack store.  It fits Nimo OK, but the straps that connect the neck strap to the saddle are a bit short and it is my plan to replace this piece of tack sooner rather than later.  That said, Nimo did not get any rubs or soreness from it and it definitely did what it was supposed to do.

Girth - I first got a County Logic Dressage Girth when Nimo was probably 4 years old.  I'd had trouble with the saddle sliding forward and this girth seemed to help with that.  As it happened, it also worked well with the Eurolight saddle, so I've been using it for our conditioning rides too without a problem.  For the Fort Valley ride, it worked great.  Nimo had no rubs or sore spots from it.  However, I once read somewhere that endurance riders are never truly happy with their gear.  They are always looking for something that's more efficient, more comfortable, more durable, etc.  In keeping with that thought process, I am planning to try a mohair girth at some point in the relatively future.  My reasoning is that my current girth is getting on in years and has been used pretty heavily.  The leather feels stiff to me and is starting to show cracks on the inside of the girth, so it will likely need to be replaced soon anyway.  And while Nimo has never really indicated that he finds the girth uncomfortable, I think a mohair girth would conform to his body better than a bulky leather girth and it might even be a little cooler.

Hoof Boots - I used the Easyboot Epics on Nimo's front feet and the Cavallo Simples on his hind feet.  I've been using the Epics for over a year and aside from snapping a cable on one of the boots at last year's Fort Valley Intro Ride, I can't remember having a problem with them.  I find the buckles and cotter pins annoying, but annoyance at the beginning and end of the ride is better than boot issues during the ride.  On this ride, the gaiter on one of the Epics broke going down the same mountain that caused a snapped cable at last year's ride (stupid mountain).  Admittedly, the boot was over a year old and Nimo was doing some kind of crazy 10+ mph hour trot on a fairly steep section and that was probably a lot of force for any material to handle.  I replaced the boot and had no other issues (which was good because I didn't have a second spare that was ready to go without making some kind of repair).

The Simples had no issues during the ride, for which I was thankful because I didn't have a spare at all for those boots.  They have to be purchased in pairs and then go through a break-in process, and that was just too much money and effort for me to go through for one ride.  Not to mention that Nimo doesn't really need hind boots.  I understand that the good people running the Fort Valley ride strongly believe that no horse can do the ride without hoof protection on all four feet, but Nimo could have easily done the second loop with no hind boots and maybe without front boots.  The first loop does have a few rocky places where hoof protection is very nice for the horse, but I would say that Nimo could have done the vast majority of that loop without boots at all.

Anyway, the only issue I ended up having with the Simples was that Nimo got an interference scrape on the inside of his left hind fetlock during the first loop.  It doesn't look like he reinjured it on the second loop, so my guess is it only happens when he's really moving out or dealing with more difficult terrain.  My options are to put interference boots on his hind legs or to get different hoof boots.  Neither option really appeals to me because interference boots are just one more thing I'd have to buy, test, and maintain and buying new hoof boots so soon after I just bought a fairly expensive pair is more than irritating.  So, my plan is actually to just leave the boot issue alone for awhile.  I don't normally ride in hind boots, so I'm just going to let Nimo's feet do what they need to do over the winter and then re-measure and see where he's at a couple of months before the No Frills ride in April next year.

Rider Gear

Boots - I have been riding in a pair of Ariat Terrains for more years than I can remember.  They are reasonably priced, durable, and comfortable even if I have to do some walking on the trail.  The boots I rode in at Fort Valley were sort of falling apart and really need to be replaced, but I didn't want to have to break in new boots just before the ride.  The boots continued to work well for me and I had no rubs or blisters from them.  I am thinking that when I buy new ones, I will get the waterproof version because I do seem to find myself walking through wet grass, small creeks, or mud so frequently and it would be nice if my feet stayed dry.

Half chaps - I know that many endurance riders do not ride in half chaps and I cannot understand why.  I love the protection from the stirrup leathers they offer, the support they give to my leg, and the protection from brush, stickery vines, and branches that they give.  I guess they are one more thing to put on and if you're planning on running some of the trails with your horse, they would add extra weight, but so far I consider them worth it.  I have been riding in the Tredstep Deluxe Half Chaps for probably at least 3 years and I really like them.  They are on the expensive side for half chaps, but they are very durable and the stretch leather panel makes them fit really well.  For the Fort Valley ride, they performed as well as they always have and I plan to keep riding in them.

Breeches - I wrote a blog post in July about three pairs of new riding tights that I tried.  My choice for conditioning rides was the pair of Soybu tights.  They fit well and didn't cause any chafing.  These tights were my choice for the Fort Valley ride as well.  And they were great.  I slept in them the night before and they were so comfortable and they caused no problems during the ride.  In fact, I think I ended up wearing these tights for almost 24 hours before I took them off, so I feel like they were tested pretty well:)  I will absolutely continue riding in them and will probably buy another pair.

Helmet - After last year's Fort Valley Intro Ride, I realized that my Charles Owen Wellington Helmet was too heavy to keep wearing for rides longer than a couple of hours.  It fits my head really well and has survived being rained on and baked in the heat for probably 3 years now, but I really needed something lighter and cooler for longer rides.  So I got an inexpensive schooling helmet many months ago and I used it for my conditioning rides only.  I'm actually not sure what kind of helmet it is (I think I looked through the Dover Saddlery catalog and picked the one that was the lightest weight), but I've never liked it.  The helmet is rounder than my head and the dial-system for adjustment is irritating and I'm convinced that it will shatter and stab me in the head if I fall.  Plus, the visor on the helmet broke after less than a month of riding.  The problem is that I didn't really want to spend several hundred dollars on a helmet and I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to if I want one without an adjustment system that really fits well and that is still lightweight with good ventilation.  I don't know anything about helmet manufacturing and testing, but I can't believe the prices of helmets.  It is ridiculous to pay $600 plus for a helmet!  Anyway, I've been boycotting the helmet industry because I'm just aggravated by what I perceive to be highway robbery.  But, it's possible that I'm going to have to bite the bullet before my next ride and start looking for a good helmet in earnest because I was not happy with the one I used at Fort Valley.  The fit issue meant that I spent a lot of time moving the helmet slightly on my head to try to find a more comfortable position.  And the part of the helmet at the back and bottom kept touching my neck, which I found colossally irritating by the end of the ride.  Bottom line:  A helmet that fits well is essential to my happiness on these longer rides, so I'm going to have to spend some time and money trying to find one.

Other stuff - My other clothes are probably not worth spending a lot of time analyzing.  I started the ride with an old cotton t-shirt, a thin long-sleeve button-down shirt, and a Columbia fleece jacket because I knew temperatures would start in the upper 30s and end in the low-70s.  That system worked very well.  I kept the fleece jacket on during the whole first loop, but I unzipped it toward the end.  Then I left it behind for the second loop as temperatures rose.  I ended up just riding in the t-shirt and long-sleeve shirt the whole second loop.  I could have taken the long-sleeve shirt off, but the sun felt strong and judging by the minor sunburn on my face and desperate need for chapstick at the end of the ride, leaving the long sleeves on probably kept my arms from getting sunburned.  For socks, I just wore inexpensive cotton socks from Target and they caused no problems.  In terms of underwear, I'll just say that what I wore worked and leave it at that:)

Electrolytes and Cooling

I hesitate to even address this part of the ride because I feel so out-of-my-league when it comes to deciding on an electrolyte protocol.  I am convinced I need to use them, but my understanding is that over-using them (or using them at the wrong time) or using the wrong kind can cause more problems than it solves.  What I've been doing is adding about a 1/2 to one tablespoon of Daily Red Equine Minerals to Nimo's post-ride mashes, depending on the weather conditions.

(I realize this product is not marketed as a performance electrolyte supplement, but I like it because it isn't as processed as many other salt products.  I don't know that there is a huge benefit to going into my concerns here, but I know for humans, processed table salt is not a healthy option, and I suspect the same is true for horses.  So, ideally, I'd like to use a product that has not been created through a harsh chemical stripping process.  That said, I also want to do the best for my horse and it may be that there is an electrolyte product out there that will work well for him and I won't not use it just because I don't like the processing method.) 

Hot weather (over 80 degrees) means I add more and cooler weather means I add less.  (I also add some to his regular feedings to make sure he is used to the taste.)  For Fort Valley, he got a 1/2 tablespoon in each of his pre-ride feedings and in the feeding he got during the vet check after the first loop.  I continued the practice for his post-ride feedings as well.  Nimo's recovery for the first loop was quite honestly pretty amazing to me.  He was pulsed down within a couple of minutes of arriving at the vet check and getting all A's on the vet check tells me things were going well.  I didn't expect him to be as fit as he was.  That said, he did recover more slowly after the ride, and while I don't think it was anything to be concerned about (and neither did the treatment vet), I do want to try to improve his recoveries at the end of the rides because for limited distance rides (rides under 50 miles), we won't necessarily have the luxury of taking 30-60 minutes for him to recover unless I push him on pace, which sort of defeats the purpose.  What I don't know is if adding more electrolytes or a different kind of electrolytes (for example one with more potassium) would help or if this is just a conditioning/fitness issue.  I'm planning to spend the winter doing more electrolyte research and my first sources are going to be Mel's blog, where she has written quite a bit about electrolytes, and hopefully a post/link to an article by Saiph, who is working with one of the vets from the Fort Valley ride to get more information about using electrolytes.

There are also other things I can do for Nimo with respect to cooling.  I can clip him, I can sponge him, and I can get off and walk with him either during the ride or near the end of the ride.  I didn't do any of these things at this ride (with the exception of getting off and walking him the last 1/4 mile at the end of the first loop and walking up a steep climb with him during the second loop).  Part of that was because I wanted to see what his baseline was.  And his baseline wasn't too bad.  For the first loop, things went really well.  For the second loop, it is possible that if he'd been clipped or I'd gotten off and walked him more, that would have helped, but it's good to know where he's at if I don't do those things.  Sponging probably wouldn't have done much for him because despite the warmer temperature, I was able to keep him from working so hard that he was sweating a lot.  Plus, Nimo's coat has become so dense, that actually getting water to penetrate to the skin is impossible without 2 rounds of soap.  Cold water still might have helped a little, just by getting it on his coat, but he's actually kind of fussy about cold water unless he's really hot, so I may have to think a little on how I might achieve lukewarm water at the vet check and trailer and maybe test a little portable shower system like this one to help get water in difficult to sponge places like under his tail and belly.  I probably will plan to do at least a partial body clip for the No Frills ride in April, unless the weather is supposed to be really cold (which is definitely possible), but otherwise, I think my main goal for now is just to improve his fitness, so he can handle the miles more efficiently.

Overall, I think the majority of equipment and gear that I used worked well and the things that didn't work as well weren't deal breakers.  There are some improvements I can make, but I'm pleased with the way things worked for our first ride.  Practicing with as much of the gear as I could before-hand really made a difference and writing things up for the blog helped too.  Writing forced me to think more analytically about why things worked and why they didn't and that definitely helped my decision-making process in terms of choosing products.  Now, here's to hoping that my inner procrastinator doesn't wait too long to research and buy the things I think I'll need for the next ride!:)

17 comments:

  1. Great review!! It is great that you didn't get a hammock for sleeping in the trailer: I can't even imagine trying that with those cold temperatures. Liz tried sleeping in a cot in her trailer last year and ended up inside the truck!

    You always write the most thoughtful posts. I'm looking forward to reading more about the flower hackamore when you're ready to write the specific review on it. I found myself buying an S-hack for experimenting (the regular stainless steel one from www.horse.com, which is $30 vs almost $80 from a place like The Distance Depot) for use on the final loops of a ride, since I keep reading that being bitless helps them eat and drink better. And I'm meaning to e-mail Mel about electrolyting too but I'm still sorting out my thoughts on that whole matter and new questions keep popping up in my head.

    I'm always interested to see what others use in terms of salt/electrolytes because very different approaches will work so well for different horses. It's such a tough subject. My one concern with the product you're using would be the iron in it: our horses tend to be iron overloaded as it is, often from the grain, supplements, hay and even water (some well water will have a lot of iron) we give them, and too much iron has been shown to cause metabolic issues later on down the line. Which really is knowledge that should be much more mainstream, as any red mineral block or salt rock is going to have too much iron in it for a horse: they really should not be marketed for horses. It is astounding how many products marketed for horses will have added iron in them. We're just starting to see some supplements that boast being iron free. Use what works for your boy, of course, and it obviously didn't hurt him, but just be careful with that iron when giving multiple servings at a ride in the long term. Would sea salt be a natural, unprocessed option if you just wanted to add sodium? Granted some sea salts contain other minerals in addition to sodium chloride so some might not be iron-free. I went looking online out of curiosity and I'm having a hard time finding a human-marketed sea salt product that is all-natural, organic AND specifically lists the other minerals they allude to. *Sigh*

    Thank you for sharing what worked for you and what didn't, and it is absolutely fantastic that the Specialized left you soreness-free! I agree: writing things up for the blog always helps, and it's a great way of looking back and remembering what worked best and what could be better later on down the line. :)

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    1. Saiph, your point about the iron is well-taken and I think things like ratios of zinc to copper and other mineral amounts are important to think about. In the case of the Daily Red product, I think the recommended amount for performance horses is up to 2 scoops (or about 2 Tbsp) a day. I think it would be unusual for me to exceed that amount and I should have written that in my post. My guess is that I'll end up using more than one product, depending on the situation, and I'll have to do some experimentation. One thing I did notice when I started using Daily Red was that Nimo's coat got shinier and he started gaining weight even though I was increasing his workload, and I was able to cut his Fibregized by 2 lbs a day, so I think something about that product is helping him, but I do need to be cognizant of the whole nutrition picture. I'm also spending some quality time with horse nutrition books like Nutrient Requirements of Horses to refresh my understanding of equine nutrition. If I glean any insights, I'll be sure to write about them, but I'm not sure I'll ever truly feel like I've mastered understanding equine nutrition:)

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    2. It's fantastic that the Daily Red has made such a wonderful difference in Nimo! Yes, please share if you're able to glean any insights on the nutrition info you're reading. :) Equine nutrition is both fascinating and complicated and so different from other animal nutrition, and you're absolutely right about balancing out iron with zinc and copper, etc. I'm hoping to get our hay analyzed over the winter and do the whole mineral balancing thing, so I'll be posting about that when it happens. And hopefully I'll finally learn the correct mineral ratios they're supposed to be getting in the process! It's like learning another language...

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  2. You nailed it on the half chaps. I wore them until I started getting off and running. Even the lightweight ones make me feel like im plodding through mollassas half way through a fifty. I still keep a pair in my crew bag just in case.

    Btw funder quite happily uses a truck tent for her endurance set up.

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    1. I can see how running in half chaps would be annoying:) I'm definitely not at a place where running with my horse sounds like fun, but who knows what the future holds:). And good to know about Funder using the truck tent - if she's happy with it, then I think chances are that I will be too.

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  3. Btw even after years and miles of doing this I still have to update my gear list I maintain on the faq page on my blog every month or two. Im still constantly tweaking.

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    1. I can see how you'd be constantly adjusting, Mel. What amazes me is how blissfully happy I was with my tack before I started on this endurance path and how quickly I realized that I needed to be making some significant changes! There's nothing like figuring out something that really works:)

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  4. Will be curious to read about the flower hack! I've used an s-hack on Mimi for years, but love to explore different bitless options.

    Have you looked at the Tipperary helmets? I think I paid around $60-65 for mine...on my third one now. They're lightweight and I find it comfortable. They also don't do that dial-a-fit system, which fits precisely no one. I will say the Tipperary tends towards a more oval shape, so a good fit is more dependent on where it fits your head shape or not.

    And I so hear you on the sleeping nag thing -- whoever rates them should be forced to overnight camp at an endurance ride to truly evaluate them. My supposed "rated below freezing" bag really isn't...at rides with overnight temps below about 50* (I'm a wimp) I end up bringing two bags and throwing one on top. Wool socks and a beanie on my head both really help for cold nights as well.

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    1. Thanks for the tip on the helmets, Ashley. I think it's time for me to visit the tack store and try on some helmets! And yes for something on my head. Thank you for reminding me that I want to be sure to bring a hat next time:)

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  5. I have been doing research on truck tents as well, since buying our truck camper is probably five years out (have to get the boy into college and out on his own first). We are leaning toward the green backroads truck tent with the fitted mattress that goes in the bed.

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    1. That's good to know, Karen. I hope you blog about how it works for you. I actually didn't see anyone else at Fort Valley with that set-up, so I'm curious to find out how others like it.

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  6. LOVE your thorough review! I think you're totally spot on when you note that it'll be helpful later. I have gone back and read ones I wrote - and that others wrote! - very often.

    Sleeping bags - I find that to get a good bag with accurate temperature rating you really need to get one from a legit outdoors company like Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, The North Face, etc. I've never had an issue with my sleeping bags, but I'm a gear snob about things like that. If you'd like to look into some NICE sleeping bags on the cheap, email me and I will teach you my money saving ways regarding nice gear. (My current North Face bag retailed at over 200$ when I purchased it....for $42 new.)

    Truck tents - I immediately whisked through the internet to price out truck RVs...HOLY... But I was impressed with what's on the inside of those things...I had no idea. I eventually want something that will also work for my other outdoors pursuits since I'm so active. Having a trailer with LQ seems silly because I can't use it when traveling to climb or do other pursuits. I like to build my life around items that have many many functions lol That said, I've got several friends with the truck tents who like them! I look forward to hearing more about your quest...

    Helmets - Second the Tipperary mentions above. I adore mine. I HATED helmets before Tipperary. HATED. I always got headaches and was miserable. But then...Tipperary. And now I will accidentally wear my helmet home some days because I've forgotten I'm wearing it! (This is more common in the winter or when it's cold lol)

    Half chaps - Second Mel's comment above. I've ditched mine in recent years either wearing tall boots or just my tights that don't ride up my leg at all. With all the sheepskin things on the saddle and wintec webbers, I haven't chafed at all! It's also nice to be able to wear less during those hot humid months. Blech.

    Hackamore - PLEASE review. Pretty please. I'm so so interested!

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    1. I think I might take you up on some sleeping bag assistance:) I surfed through sites like REI and was stunned by the prices. I'm willing to pay for quality but I'm going to need time to adjust my mental state:)

      And I do love the idea of the truck bed campers, but even the soft-side pop ups are pricey. The idea of a stove, bathroom, table, etc. is very appealing.

      And I think my hackamore post should come out next week:)

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    2. I third the Tipperary! I had a size large one that gave me headaches...and it turns out I just needed a medium! I LOVE my Tipperary now that I have the right size! And like you, I HATE the dial fit helmets. We bought a dial fit for Charles because it was cheap and he ended up inheriting my size large Tipperary because he couldn't stand the dial fit either.

      And on another note, I literally just discovered this while looking online...I might give this mohair girth a try: https://www.thedistancedepot.com/Montana_Cincha_Endurance_Mohair_Girth_p/fth-mcend.htm
      I like that it's contoured behind the elbows. And it's only about $30 more than the ones from Riding Warehouse. Yup, the Black Friday shopping list just keeps getting longer and longer...:)

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    3. Ooohhhh, thanks for the mohair girth tip! And it sounds like I better at least try on a Tipperary helmet:)

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  7. Thanks for the gear review, I love these. I tented for years and hated the setting up/taking down process (in the rain), then setting up at home again due to the soaking-wetness. I always wanted a camper with a bathroom but you're right about the cost. Then my second truck came with a canopy. Going from a tent to sleeping in the bed of my truck in a canopy was heavenly. Nothing to set up, and the illustion of being safe from insects. I have no idea what canopies cost, probably more than a truck-tent. I hope you can find an easy inexpensive solution so you can get a little more sleep!

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    1. Yeah, I'm not crazy about setting up a tent in the rain, either, but I think it's the cheapest option for now. Plus, I'm not sure I want to install any kind of more permanent cover over the truck bed. I like having it open for hauling stuff because we do a fair bit of home improvement projects and all the materials seem to be awkwardly shaped...

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