Friday, April 24, 2015

Foxcatcher 25: What Worked and What Didn't

OK, here's the good, the bad, and the ugly about what worked and what didn't for this ride.

Going with a Friend

The single best thing that I did for this ride was to go with someone.  Having fellow blogger, Saiph, and her husband, Charles, with us helped keep me calmer and Saiph's horse, Lily, definitely helped Nimo be less anxious on the trail and in camp.  Plus Charles was a great crew.  If I could do every ride with them, I would.  Saiph and Charles are fun to be around and Charles' particular brand of humor makes it hard to get too upset about anything.  And Saiph convinced me that we would be OK starting a few minutes late to avoid the craziness that happens at the beginning of the ride.  Had I been on my own, I would have been very tempted to start on time because I would have been worried about taking advantage of every minute out on the trail.  As it was, our average pace ended up being just about perfect, leaving us 15 minutes to spare.  I'd still like to work on Nimo's ability to adjust his speed on the trail a little, but I'm feeling more confident that if we can do our next few rides with a buddy, it will help Nimo settle a bit, while still keeping his motivation.


I was convinced that I hadn't done a good enough job conditioning Nimo for this ride.  I barely eeked out an average of 1-2 rides a week during January and February and even March was dismal (60.5 miles) compared to what I did the month before the Fort Valley ride (100+ miles).  The one thing I was pretty consistent about was getting in one good conditioning ride of 10-ish miles almost every weekend, and I'm pretty sure that was what really helped.  Another thing we did was condition almost exclusively over easy to moderate rolling hills of the type that we saw at Foxcatcher, and we did occasional dressage lessons over cavaletti, which provided quite a bit of strength training.  I hadn't done a mountain ride since December because I became focused on working toward the Foxcatcher ride, and I didn't think we needed it.  More than one person told me that if we could do the majority of the Manassas Battlefield trails at a trot, we were in good shape for Foxcatcher but I absolutely did not believe them.  (Said people may now say, "I told you so!").  I still don't quite understand how Nimo was able to go farther and faster than we did in our conditioning rides and still be in such good shape at the vet checks, but something must have worked out:)


I clipped Nimo within an inch of his life for this ride.  I used the medium blade for the Lister Star clippers, which is 2.5 mm.  I normally use a longer blade when I do clip and I never do a full body clip before May, but I was committed to making sure Nimo had the best chance to stay cool, given the ride temperature was projected to be near 70, so I shaved off all of his hair except for the hair below his knees and hocks and above his jawline on his head (henceforth to be referred to as the cap and stocking clip).  I didn't clip at all for the Fort Valley ride last year because it was fall and I didn't want to deal with blanketing all through the winter, but in the spring, I'm happy to shave off all the hair and use sheets and blankets for a couple of months.  I think the clip job definitely helped Nimo out because I didn't even see any sweat on him after the first loop, aside from a few dried flecks over his haunches, and all the sweat was dry coming off the second loop.  It definitely seemed worth it to clip, but I'm still on the fence about doing it for fall rides because Nimo does so well with his full winter coat and no blanket during all but the very worst winter weather, which means much less stress for me worrying about which blanket he should have and whether the barn staff got it right.  On the other hand, if I'm going to be competing him regularly, it's possible that I'll have to live with the clipping and the blanketing.


I didn't braid Nimo's mane at all for this ride.  It had spent the winter getting matted and tangled and filthy and it was too cold before the ride for me to do a full bathing/conditioning/detangling session.  So I left it where it lay - half on one side and half on the other, and called it good.  I figured the clipping would play a larger role in his cooling anyway.  And someday soon I'm going to wash that mane...


Sigh...I don't really have an e-lyte protocol.  It's not that I don't want one or that I think Nimo doesn't need one.  It's just that I can't get a good grasp on exactly what makes the most sense for him.  I think the first part of this post by Aarene Storms sums up many of my thoughts.  I've also spent a lot of time reading Mel's blog, where she discusses electrolytes (as well as other helpful stuff) a lot.

So here's what I do.  I give Nimo 1/2 tablespoon of Daily Red (essentially ground Redmond rock salt) twice a day (with each feeding of 1 1/2 pounds of Pacemaker FiberFocus).  On days I ride, he gets another 1/2 tablespoon with a mash of 1 1/2 pounds of FiberFocus after the ride.  Nimo also gets 5,500 mg of magnesium citrate each morning as well as 30 g of SmartDigest Ultra and 30 g of SmartDark & Handsome (which I pulled out of his feed a week before the ride because it contains paprika, an illegal substance for endurance riding - I will save my rant about that for another post).

For Foxcatcher, I added an extra 5,500 mg of magnesium citrate to his evening feed the night before the ride.  I have no explanation for why I did that instead of adding, say, more salt.  In hindsight, adding extra salt would make more sense.  I think I just wanted to do something and adding another packet of something seemed like a good idea.

On the day of the ride, Nimo got his regular feed (1 1/2 pounds of Pacemaker FiberFocus) which included 5,500 mg of magnesium citrate, 1/2 tablespoon Daily Red, and 30 g SmartDigest Ultra plus alfalfa and timothy/orchard grass hay.  During the first loop, he ate a few carrots.  At the hold, he ate a mash of 1 1/2 pounds FiberFocus with 1/2 tablespoon Daily Red plus he drank several gallons of water and ate timothy/orchard grass hay.  During the second loop, he ate a few carrots and drank quite a bit a couple of miles into the loop as well as a little bit more about halfway into the loop.  After the ride, he ate a mash of 1 1/2 pounds FiberFocus with 1/2 tablespoon of Daily Red plus half an apple and some more carrots plus timothy/orchard grass hay (he didn't seem to want alfalfa even though I offered it).  He also drank 7 plus gallons of water while he was pulsing down as well as more after he got back to his corral.  And for dinner, he got a mash of 1 1/2 pounds FiberFocus with 1/2 tablespoon of Daily Red and more giant mounds of hay.  That's it.  That was my "e-lyting."

At some point, I will do a specific analysis of what is in 2 tablespoons of Daily Red plus the magnesium citrate and compare it to other, commonly recommended brands of electrolytes, and try to come up with some kind of a plan for future rides, but my brain is just not up to it right now.  However, one thing I do like about Daily Red versus most of the other packaged electrolytes is that it does include more than just the main electrolytes (sodium chloride, potassium, calcium, magnesium) because it is an unprocessed salt with lots of trace minerals.  While I'm certainly not in a position of expertise to argue that focusing on 4 main electrolytes is a bad thing, it doesn't make sense to me that a performance horse would only use those 4 electrolytes and nothing else.  On the other hand, there is quite a bit of persuasive evidence that the use of some kind of electrolyte formula is beneficial for endurance horses, so those formulas must be providing some kind of assistance.  In the end, I suspect I'll end up incorporating some combination of Daily Red and a commercial electrolyte mix and that I'll be writing posts ad nauseam as I try to fine-tune the mixture.

Here's the thing.  Nimo did great during and after the ride.  He got all A's on his vet checks.  I realize that A's at the vet check isn't the only part of the story, and it is possible for a horse to run into trouble during recovery even if everything looks good at the final vet check.  Nimo seemed fine though.  He ate and drank well through the whole ride and after the ride was over.  He seemed to move well and though he was tired the night after the ride, I thought he came through the whole thing really well, especially because he was on the trailer for about 5 hours the day before the ride and the day after the ride.

So, I think I can assume that my minimal e-lyting worked for this ride.  Whether it will always work is a different story, and I know Mel has written that horses can adapt to e-lyting, so what works for awhile may not work forever.  Also, the temperature did approach 70, but the humidity level was pretty reasonable and the strong wind meant that cooling wasn't as much of an issue as it would be when temperatures and humidity are higher.  So, my search for a good e-lyte protocol is still in place, but I'm happy with how things worked at Foxcatcher.

Camping for Nimo

Corral - I used the same 10' long by 5' high Economy Corral Panels that I used last year for Fort Valley.  However, I decided to have metal brackets installed on my trailer so that I could carry them outside the trailer instead of inside the trailer.  That way, I could haul a second horse and just have a better way of carrying them.  The problem ended up being that when I told the guys at the store doing the work that I wanted 12" of bracket space to haul 6 panels, they didn't believe me and made the brackets only wide enough to hold 4 panels.  I had actually expected that to happen, which is why I tried to find another place to do the work in the first place, but everyone was so jammed up with work, I couldn't get the work done until after the ride was over unless I used this particular store.  (I will say that the work done was excellent, but the gentlemen who work at this place don't have much experience working with horse trailers or apparently women who are capable of appropriately describing what they want, so every time I have them do work for me, something always gets screwed up.)  Luckily, I already had a contingency plan.  I planned to use the 4 panels and attach them with rope to the trailer, effectively using the trailer as a fifth panel.  That worked well and seemed to provide a large enough space for Nimo to be comfortable, although I managed to put a scratch in the trailer even though I wrapped a rag around the panel to keep it from scratching.  So I'll need to find a better way of preventing scratches on the trailer in the future, but otherwise the set-up worked.  The other thing I found out was that the padding I put on the end of the panels didn't prevent a couple of scratches to the trailer while I was hauling them, so I'll have to upgrade the padding there as well.  And finally, the cargo straps I used to keep the panels in place (the brackets only hold the panels from above) wouldn't stay tight enough to completely eliminate movement of the panels on less than completely smooth roads.  I can only hope that no major loads are secured using these poorly designed straps from Lowe's.  I'll be shopping around for some more secure straps before my next trip.

Water bucket - I've been using these buckets called Better Buckets for almost 2 years because the design seems to make it easier for horses to drink/eat out of them.  However, they don't work well for carrying water because they aren't stable unless they are braced on something.  And even the large one that I have didn't really hold enough water for Nimo at this ride.  I think I'll be upgrading to something in the 10-15 gallon capacity for future rides.  The reason I haven't gotten a larger bucket to sit on the ground already is because Nimo has a tendency to play in his water and stick his feet in it.  But I think he's finally growing out of that habit and I'm ready to at least give the larger bucket a try.

Camping for Me

Kodiak Canvas Short-Bed Full-Size Truck Tent - After sleeping in the backseat of my truck for the Fort Valley ride last year, I was bound and determined to improve my sleeping conditions for Foxcatcher.  I really wanted one of those campers that fits onto the back of your truck bed and includes things like a sink and shower, but the price tags ranging from $8-25K just didn't fit my budget, especially because I don't do any camping outside of endurance rides.  So, the truck tent seemed like a much more reasonably-priced substitute.  The Kodiak tent that I got is definitely on the higher-end of the prices, but I like that it is canvas.  I'm hard on my stuff, and I worried that the lighter-weight tent material in some other, less expensive models wouldn't survive my ownership long.

The best thing that I did was to set the tent up a few days before I left for Foxcatcher.  I had lots of "help" from my 2-year-old daughter, which I would not recommend.  I discovered setting up the tent is mostly a one-person job, although having someone standing on the ground to adjust some of the straps could be useful.  The first time I set up the tent, I spent some time being confused by the different poles because the directions weren't very clear.  Once I figured out where they went, though, it made sense.  There was definitely a lot of swearing while I set it up because I had to crawl inside the tent and place the poles, so before the first couple of poles were in place, I felt a bit claustrophobic as the tent just draped over me, and I'm pretty sure I looked like I had been chased by a bear for 7 miles by the time I was done.  However, by working through the process ahead of time, I was able to set it up fairly quickly at Foxcatcher.

The tent fits over the bed with the tail gate down, so there is room for a full-size cot, a large cooler, a suitcase, and a heater plus a little maneuvering room.  The height of the tent is 5 feet in the middle, which is perfect if you are sitting down and slightly annoying if you are standing up and taller than 5 feet.  However, the tent stayed secure even in the 30 mph gusts we had the day of the ride, and it was a huge improvement over sleeping in the truck.  And it does come down easier than it goes up, although I still haven't figured out how to fold it so that it fits in the micro-scopic bag it came with.  Overall, I was happy with the tent and will use it again.  And I recommend it as a great option if you want to camp in a tent but like the idea of sleeping off of the ground to avoid potential flooding and being run over by loose horses.

Earth Products Jamboree Military Style Folding Cot - There are maybe three options for sleeping in a truck tent.  You can sleep on a cot, an inflatable mattress, or some kind of thick mat.  I decided to go with a cot because I'm never happy with inflatable mattresses (and they can conduct cold air), and I wanted to save space so a fold-up cot seemed like a better idea than a huge mat that I would need to wrestle with.  Much like with the tent, I set up the cot a few days ahead of time in my living room.  I'm glad I did because it didn't come with any directions.  Luckily, this particular cot literally almost sets itself up.  It just sort of unfolds and goes into place.  At 77" long, there is plenty of room for even taller people and it felt really secure when I tried it out.  Even my 6'2" 200 pound husband thought it was comfortable.  And my daughter loved it so much, she wouldn't let me put it away.  She jumped on it and played on it for days and it was no worse for the wear.

My daughter testing out the cot

I meant to put it in the tent when it was set up to check how it fit, but I ran out of time, so the ride was the first time I set it up in the tent, and luckily it just fit:)  Sleeping on it wasn't the same is sleeping on a real bed with a high quality mattress, but I thought it was pretty comfortable.  The design of the cot means that there are no bars running across the middle, so there was nothing hard to make things uncomfortable.  And the material seemed pretty supportive.  And I had plenty of leg room.  And I had space to store some things underneath it.  And it sets up in about 2 minutes and doesn't require any kind of inflation.  Overall, I would give this cot 5 stars, and I definitely plan to use it again.

Teton Sports Celsius XXL Sleeping Bag - This is the same bag I used last year.  It didn't work then and the only reason it worked this year is because I had a heater (see below).  The bag is supposedly rated to 0 degrees, but I was only comfortable in it at room temperature.  That said, as long as I have a heater, it will be fine, so my plan is to use it until it is worn out, rather than replace it when I don't really need to.

Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy 4,000-9,000 BTU Indoor-Safe Portable Radiant Heater - After nearly freezing to death at the Fort Valley ride last year, I was committed to staying warm at Foxcatcher.  I think it was Saiph who first mentioned this heater to me, and it seemed like a no-brainer.  I do admit to being a little wary about working with propane-powered devices, so I had some concerns, which Saiph's husband, Charles, thoughtfully expounded upon at the ride:)  Basically, I worried that despite being "indoor-safe," I would somehow die from propane fumes or that I would set myself or the tent on fire and burn to death.  But I really wanted to be warm, so I worked on overcoming my fears.

The first time I used it was at Foxcatcher, but the directions were pretty easy once I figured out how to get the cap off the 1-pound propane tank.  The pilot light came on really consistently and this little heater really put out a lot of heat.  We used it while sitting outside and it did really help keep the cold from seeping in.  However, during my first night in the tent, I couldn't find a happy medium and even on the low setting, the heater created a sauna in the tent, so I kept turning it off and on as I got too hot and then too cold.  That was still better than freezing to death, though:)  The second night, I got the venting in the tent just right (2 cross windows slightly open and the bottom of the tent door open) so the tent stayed 65-70 degrees all night.  The only issue I had was that the propane tank only lasts for 6 hours on low (3 hours on high), so I had to swap the tank in the middle of the night.  If there was a way for the propane tank to last 8-9 hours, I would give this heater about a million stars.  There is just nothing better than being able to be warm while sleeping!  If I hadn't had a cold that kept me from breathing well, I would have been super comfortable and I will never, ever give this heater up.

Ultra Bright LED Lantern - I didn't really need to get this lantern, but it just seems like it isn't camping unless you have a lantern.  And I imagined using the loop at the top of my tent ceiling to hang it from to create a lovely homey atmosphere in my tent.  Well, I was too lazy to find a hook to use to hang the lantern, but it did provide a nice amount of light for its size.  It's pretty small - maybe 10 inches completely open, but it did produce a decent amount of light.  I wouldn't consider it bright enough to read by, but for just being able to see to get dressed or find something, it was fine.

KMASHI 10000mAh MP816 Dual USB Portable External Extended Battery Pack Power Bank Backup Charger - When I was at the Fort Valley ride, there was no good cell phone reception, so I just kept my phone off to conserve power.  However, I expected to be able to use my cell phone at Foxcatcher and I wanted to be sure I could use it to take pictures (ha! I literally took ONE picture), track miles, or call home.  I have an iPhone which generally needs to be charged every 36 hours under my normal usage and I would be gone for over 48 hours, so I wanted to be able to charge it in camp.  I discovered this nifty, inexpensive device, and it worked well to charge my phone on the second night.  It did only charge it to 98%, but that was perfectly fine for my use.  It's actually nice to have at home too, just in case the power goes out for an extended period of time, we'll have a way to charge our phones at least a couple of times.

Ivation Battery-Powered Handheld Portable Shower - I initially found this item when I was looking for ways to cool my horse at holds.  But it occurred to me it might be nice for me too after a ride.  I didn't need it for Nimo, but I did give it a try after the ride.  I filled a 5 gallon bucket to put the pump into and stood in a huge rubber feed bucket to catch the water.  I think that system would have worked really well if the water hadn't been at the temperature of hell frozen over.  The shower put out a nice amount of water while not going through the water so fast that I wouldn't have enough time to get clean (I think you could get maybe 5 minutes for 5 gallons of water).  And if it had been really hot outside, the water probably would have felt good.  I ended up taking the fastest shower ever and not worrying that much about being clean.  I will say that I think my initial plan to use this shower to help cool Nimo is still a good one and I'll keep the product for that and keep looking for a portable shower option for me.

Horse Gear

Saddle - You may remember that I got a Specialized Eurolight saddle last summer that I really like (click here to read about my demo experience).  The saddle worked great at the Fort Valley ride and I used it again for Foxcatcher, where it still worked great.  It's comfortable, can be adjusted for Nimo's ever-changing shape, and came with inexpensive plastic, wide endurance stirrups that really seem to help my comfort level. I had no rubs from the saddle (and neither did Nimo), so I will continue to use it.

Saddle pad - In the past, I've used this pad that Specialized makes to go with their saddles, but I've never been that happy with it.  It's fleecy, so it collects hay and hair and dirt and it doesn't seem to be that cooling of a pad.  Plus, there is this weird suede-like section on the bottom of the pad that goes over Nimo's withers and at the front part of the panel area.  I don't know that it bothered him, but I didn't like it being there or the stitching pattern on it.  I bought a Supracor saddle pad last year and I HATED it.  But it cost a lot of money, so I wasn't willing to pitch it.  I didn't like it because it was stiff and bulky and I couldn't figure out how to tell if my saddle fit correctly when it was on.  And it definitely wasn't cooling - Nimo would be lathered under the pad when he no other sweat on his body.

However, over the winter I spotted a few white hairs growing on Nimo's back.  They didn't look concentrated enough to be the result of pressure, but I couldn't be sure with Nimo's thick coat.  And with two saddles, I couldn't be sure which saddle or saddle pad might be the problem.  It occurred to me that it could be the result of too much heat and Saiph thought there was a possibility that it was the result of friction.  I ended up refitting both my saddles and I changed the pads I used just in case.  For my dressage saddle, I took the wool half pad out of rotation and just use a thin cotton pad.  For my endurance saddle, I brought back the Supracor.  I still am not convinced that I have the saddle fitted properly, but Saiph assured me there was good clearance over Nimo's spine (she could see it when she rode behind me at the ride) and the honeycomb pattern of the pad appears evenly distributed on the foam panels of the saddle.  Being who I am, I will probably keep messing with the fit of the saddle until I'm convinced it fits well, but I admit to liking that the Supracor is much easier to keep clean (no washing in the machine, just wiping with a rag) and I possibly don't hate it as much as I used to.

Saddle bags - I continued to use the Snug Pax Slimline English Pommel Pack that I used at Fort Valley.  I can fit 2 water bottles, 6 carrots, ride card, and a few other small items like hoof picks and chapstick.  The only thing that I keep meaning to improve upon is to add a snap to each side of the pack where the lower strap attaches to the saddle.  Right now, I've got to redo the strap through the buckle each time I attach it and unattach it, so if I add a snap to the strap before I run it through the buckle, I can just use the snap to attach it, saving me a few seconds.  It's not a big deal except when I'm trying to pull tack for a hold or at the end of the ride and seconds can count as I try to get Nimo pulsed down, so note to self:  Put snaps on the straps!

Bridle - Last 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.  I used it with the Zilco flower hackamore that I've been riding with since last October.  Overall, the set-up works fine, but I'm starting to wonder if I can tweak it a bit.  I love having the bit hangers because I can pull the hackamore off for Nimo to eat better; however, I don't like that the flower hackamore does still constrict Nimo's ability to chew because it has to be attached snugly to stay balanced on his face.  I'm actually considering moving to an s-hack for future rides because the noseband is looser.  I still like the flower hackamore for riding, but the nose/jaw constriction is starting to bug me.  I don't know that I'd like the s-hack for dressage work, though, so I may end up using the s-hack for conditioning/endurance rides and keep the flower hackamore for dressage work.

Breastcollar - To quote what I said after my Fort Valley ride:  "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."  Upgrading to a biothane breastcollar is still on my list of things to do.  Part of the issue is that I'll need to get a custom one made because Nimo's measurements don't match the standard.  It's not the size of his chest that is necessarily the issue, but the length of the straps that go between the neck of the breastcollar and attach to the saddle is much longer than normal, and I'm still undecided about exactly how I want to have them fit or whether I want to switch to a western-style collar that doesn't have the connecting strap over the withers area.  I'm concerned about pressure there, even though so far, it hasn't been an issue.

Girth - I'm still using my County Logic Dressage Girth that I got when Nimo was probably 4 years old.  For the Fort Valley ride, it worked great and it continued to cause no problems at Foxcatcher, even though many Arab owners gasped when I told them that I clipped Nimo's girth area.  (There are many great things about Arabians, but their thin, sensitive skin is not one of them.)  However, the leather is cracked and stiff, and it really needs to be replaced.  I want to try a mohair girth at some point in the near future and see how it works because it seems like it would be more comfortable and cooler than a leather girth.

Hoof Boots - None.  I ended up not using hoof boots at all for this ride (although I brought 6 of them just in case).  There were a couple of places where I wondered whether I'd made the right decision because there were some sections of gravel and even paved road in both loops.  The majority of the gravel roads had room to ride on the grass next to them, though, so overall I was happy with not using hoof boots.  I think it's easier for Nimo to move without them, and I enjoyed the freedom of not having to worry about cables snapping and gaiters ripping.  Nimo has been doing his conditioning work since last November completely without hind boots and mostly without front boots, so he was used to being ridden on gravel with no protection.  I wouldn't do a ride with lots of rocks or gravel without hoof boots, but Foxcatcher generally had really good footing, and Nimo's hooves seemed to be in great shape after the ride, so I plan on not using hoof boots for future Foxcatcher rides (and I'm looking for more rides that I can do boot-free).  I will say that more than one person looked at me with concern and possibly horror when I said that I planned to have Nimo barefoot for the Foxcatcher ride.  I know it's a controversial subject, but I feel most comfortable riding Nimo completely barefoot.  He seems to have the best traction and moves most freely with nothing on his feet.  The boots are nice protection for rocky trails and gravel, but they add a lot of weight and when they fail on a ride, it is frustrating.  For some people, metal shoes are the solution, but my research has convinced me that metal shoes aren't a good choice for Nimo.  For longer distances that involve rocky terrain, I may consider glue-on boots or glue-on shoes like EasyShoes, but for now, barefoot with hoof boots when warranted is working.

Rider Gear

Boots - I normally ride in Ariat Terrains with half chaps, but over the winter I started riding in Dublin Pinnacle Boots.  (You can read my initial review of them here.)  I've grown to really like them because they are a one-step process instead of the two steps of putting on boots and half chaps.  They are not a light weight boot, so I wouldn't want to do a lot of hiking in them, but I like them for riding.  Plus they are waterproof and supportive.  They are warm, so they work better in lower temperatures, but for an April ride, they were a good choice.  And I'm kind of thinking about different possibilities for summer riding now.  I'm not sure I want to go back to both boots and half chaps, but I want the support of boots and half chaps combined with the simplicity of putting on one boot.  I'll have to do some investigation into my options...

Breeches - I'm still using the Soybu tights that I used for Fort Valley.  (You can read this blog post for more information.)  They still fit well and didn't cause any chafing.

Helmet - I'm still using the same helmet that I used for Fort Valley last year that I hate.  It's just an inexpensive helmet whose brand I can never remember.  I absolutely need to replace it and I just haven't gotten around to it.  The biggest issue is that it isn't the right shape for my head.  I think I need more of an oval shape, so even when adjusted correctly, the helmet fits more snugly around the front and back of my head with too much room on the sides.  I also want one without the "dial-fit" system.  I like having a helmet that is the right size without adjustment, so I really just need to go to the tack store and try on helmets for awhile.

Food and Drinks for Me

I packed a huge assortment of food and beverages:  bananas, apples, yogurt, hummus and pita chips, cream cheese and bagels, Utz Salt & Vinegar chips, egg salad and bread, coleslaw, snack crackers, chocolate, root beer, ginger beer, milk, gatorade, mineral water, plain water, and wine.  While I didn't eat or drink even half the stuff I packed, I had lots of good choices and I ate much better than at the Fort Valley ride.  The other thing I did was to mix half Gatorade and half water in the bottles for my ride.  I have found that the half-and-half mixture seems to work better than Gatorade or water alone.  I didn't crave any salty snacks after the ride, so I think I did better on my salt intake than usual, although I did still have a couple of leg cramps later in the afternoon.  Had I eaten a banana after the ride like I had planned, that may have solved the problem, but overall, I was in better shape nutritionally than at Fort Valley.

So there you have it.  Most of the stuff worked the way it was supposed to and the few things that didn't were generally things that I already knew were a problem, but I put off replacing or fixing because I had other priorities.  Hopefully, I'll be able to make improvements for each ride in the future, and I'm sure that by the time I've fixed all the problems I've identified here, I'll have new ones to take care of:)


  1. I have a buddy heater and have used it for years and have yet to poison myself. Elites are still a giant black hole to me. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't and good luck predicting who when and why. Ugh.

  2. Paprika is rocket fuel for horses, you know. ;D I hope you do write that rant sometime!

    Loved this! I think this is the most complete ride gear review I have read so far! And I realized there were a few more things I could have reviewed, like our slider Coleman mini lantern (it comes with the clip for hanging in the tent and is bright enough for reading!) and my headlamp (Liz kept recommending one and I didn't understand until I borrowed hers at RBTR last year and realized how much easier my life was when I didn't need to use my hands to light the way. You can get inexpensive ones at Amazon, Target, and Walmart; just make sure they have the red light option: it allows you to see the horses at night without blinding them. Mine is an Energizer brand one from Target.)

    I totally understand G's love of the cot! (She is adorable btw!) As a military brat when I was a kid, my dad always had a cot or two around the house and I often chose to sleep in a cot instead of my bed! We might go for cots if we ultimately decide we hate the air mattress...I have every intention of applying Karen's modifications to see if we can make it work for us for now!

    When you go to the tack store to try helmets, do try on the Tipperary Sportage. I love love love mine, and I have a more oval head too. They run a bit large (I normally take 7 and 1/4 sized helmets; I take a medium in Tipperary) but I love it once I figured out the correct size. No dial; they have foam shims to help customize the fit. All those vents are wonderful; I tend to forget I'm wearing my Tipperary! I do go back to my IRH with only front vents in the winter when it's colder though. Or you can use one of those fleece helmet covers over it to retain heat over your head.

    For readers that have smaller tents, while doing my "Camping Upgrade" shopping list on Amazon I realized that there is a smaller Mr. Buddy heater:

    And I would totally do every ride with you too! :D

  3. Omg that truck tent is da bomb! I must get one of those! ;-) I'm glad your conditioning plan worked for you! Also I second the Tipperary Sportage. I don't use a helmet at home as they give me massive headaches, but I tried a Sportage once and it was by far the comfiest helmet I've tried. I will probably get one for future rides!

  4. This is an AWESOME recap of worked/didn't work!

    Regarding straps to tie shit down?

    None better. Outdoors folks from whitewater to mtn. biking to everything in between use these for all our needs. Used. Abused. And they stand the test time and time again. Crank 'em down where you need them then thrown in a quick-release knot to guarantee they'll stay. I've traveled many miles with random shit on the roof of my car held down by these babies with no issue!