Sunday, June 11, 2017

The OD 25 2017: Before the Ride

I mentioned in my last post that the Old Dominion (OD) 25-mile ride was next on our schedule.  The OD 25 is a ride that I've wanted to do for a while.  We did attempt the trail in October 2015, when the OD hosted the National Championship ride, but hoof boot issues forced a Rider Option at the hold.  (You can read about it here.)  I've been thinking about how to do the ride better ever since then, but high heat and humidity meant that we scratched last year before the ride.  This year's crazy up and down weather offered a chance for completion, so I registered a couple of weeks before the ride and crossed my fingers.  Mother Nature was agreeable and we were hit with a "cold" front for a few days before the ride, and the expected high the day of the ride was 75 degrees.

I was still worried about Nimo's left hind hoof because I suspected that an abscess was brewing in there due to some hoof remodeling on the sole and a slight bulge on the lateral quarter, but Nimo continued to move well.  I did a brief ride on the Tuesday night before the OD to check for soundness at all three gaits and he seemed OK. 

So I continued with my pre-ride preparations which mostly involved body clipping.  It probably sounds strange to be body clipping in June, but the hair on Nimo's legs and face tends to remain a little long and I could still see the faint outline from the clip I'd given him in April before Foxcatcher, and I wanted to give him every chance to keep cool at what would be a warmer ride.  So I clipped his entire body except for his legs below the knee.  I wasn't taking a huge amount of hair off, but it made me feel better to know that all extra hair was gone.  I leave the hair on his lower legs partly out of respect for the Friesian breed, which is known for its feathers, but also because I like the protection the hair offers when we have to navigate off trail in brush with sticker vines and other such horrors.

I also needed hoof boots on all four feet for the OD (shoes or hoof boots are required by ride management).  I'd been working Nimo in Easyboot Epics, which are the best fit for his hoof shape out of all the boot brands I've tried.  Last year, I gave up on the Epics in disgust because I had constant problems with gaiters ripping and even just boots randomly flying off.  But, after experimenting with Renegades, I just could not get them to fit his front feet right, and I turned back to the Epics.  I used them for about 6 weeks for climbing, over rocks, and on the flat at Nimo's crazy fast trot to re-test them, and aside from one boot coming off because I hadn't tightened the cable enough, they seemed to be working OK, so I was ready to try them again at the OD.  That meant repairing a couple of older boots to make sure I had extra boots in case of failure, and I've got to say that the first time I replaced a gaiter, it took me two attempts and a total of about an hour and a half of frustration before I got it on.

This picture represents the crowning achievement of my life to-date - a successfully replaced gaiter!
Luckily, the next boot that I needed to repair was a little easier and I was able to replace both a cable and a gaiter, which was tricky to do at the same time (and it's possible that I both dented my coffee table and chipped the concrete on our garage floor banging on the copper band for the cable), but the boots cost me $87 a piece, so spending $12 on a gaiter and $3 on a cable is a huge savings, even it it took me 45 minutes to make the repairs.

I planned to leave for the ride on Thursday morning (June 8) because the ride was being held on a Friday this year to allow for a two-day format.  The 25- and 50-mile distances would run on Friday while the 100-mile ride along with an Intro ride would run on Saturday.  So I packed everything on Wednesday night, double-checked that Nimo was still moving well on his left hind and went to bed fully expecting him to be dead lame in the morning.

On Thursday morning, I was up at 6:30 to whip up the filling for the appetizers I was bringing to the potluck dinner on Thursday night and to finish packing some last minute things.  I headed out to the barn at 8:30 and after confirming that Nimo was still miraculously sound, I quickly gave him an abbreviated bath so that some of the mud he has been accumulating over the past few weeks would be washed away.  Then I loaded him and we were off.

I met a friend about 30 minutes down the road so we could caravan and park together at the ride, and we made it to ride camp without incident, although the merge from I-66 to I-81 south took about 3 years off my life.  I hate that particular merge because it requires merging from the left onto an extremely busy section of 81 that is full of semi-trucks and idiots barreling down the road as fast as their little engines will allow.  I, on the other hand, can barely get to 50 mph because of the short acceleration lane, so finding an opening in traffic that is big enough to allow not only for my rig but also for my slower speed is tricky.  Anyway, it all managed to work out, and we survived the 25 nail-biting miles on 81 before turning off onto much slower roads.

We got to the OD ride camp around 12:30 and managed to score the last 2 spots on the creek side of camp.  Unfortunately, that meant we were also as far as possible from the registration area and tent for meals and meetings, but the location was simply beautiful!

Nimo enjoys the good life!
Nimo must watch all the vehicles coming in to camp:)
OD Ridecamp - trailers as far as the eye can see!
We got the horses set up in their pens and set off on the long journey to the registration area to check-in.  After picking up our rider packets, we packed up our stuff to take to the vet check area for the mid-ride hold, which is not in camp, as well as put together a few things for the crewing area in camp so we would have some supplies like water buckets and food for the finish because our trailers were too far way to use for crewing.  Bird Haven Farm hosts the vet check and it isn't far from camp, so I opted to bring my stuff to the vet check myself instead of relying on the volunteers to do it.  Because I'm using my trailer to camp in now instead of a truck bed tent, it's easy for me to unhook and drive where I need to go.

Bird Haven vet check is the most beautiful vet check I've ever been to!
After we got our stuff set up at the crewing area at the finish and at the Bird Haven vet check, we headed back to camp so I could get my trailer set up for sleeping, which basically just involves hanging sheets or tarps so weather can't get in through the openings in my stock trailer and setting up a cot with bedding.  Quick and easy with no wrestling a tent - definitely an improvement!

I finished making my appetizer for the potluck dinner, and at about 6:15, we set off for the tent that hosted dinner.  After dinner was the ride meeting, which started at 7 and went until 8.  Apparently, some changes had been made to the way the ride was organized, so it took awhile to go through them.  It was also a bit more formal than other ride meetings I've been to, which added some length, but I think the goal was to make sure we not only had the information we needed, but that we understood why things were they way they were. 

It was a bit long and I started to fidget toward the end, but there were two important pieces of information that I'm glad I had.  One was that the first loop was marked with white/blue striped ribbons and the second loop was marked with yellow/black striped ribbons, and the second was that the closing time of the Bird Haven vet check had been changed.  I'm not really used to vet checks closing because the other rides I've done have in-camp vet checks.  Obviously, I knew that the mid-ride check was an away check, but I didn't realize that there was a specific deadline for getting in.  If you were late, you'd be pulled from the ride.  Apparently, the time had changed based on something that had happened last year, where riders had gotten to the vet check a little after it closed (which doesn't mean it is shut down, just that you're considered overtime), and complained because they felt they could have still finished before the maximum time for the ride.  The ride management reviewed Bird Haven to finish times from the previous 2 years and concluded that the riders were theoretically correct and decided to extend the time the Bird Haven check was open.  The ride started at 8 am and we had until 11:45 am to get to the vet check.  The first loop is almost 16 miles, so the time seemed reasonable to me and I hoped we'd be there by 11 and it wouldn't be an issue (hint: foreshadowing...).

After the meeting, I headed back to my trailer to give Nimo a walk around camp and get him settled for the night.  I chatted with my friend for a bit, and then headed off to bed at a little after 9.  There was no cell service in camp, and I was too tired to read, so I ran my little propane heater for a few minutes to take the chill out of the air (the low was supposed to be around 50, so I didn't think I'd need the heater all night), and tried to get some sleep. 


  1. Curse you and your cliffhanger! *waits eagerly for next part*

    Creek side is the best side <3

  2. ...tapping "refresh"....tapping "refresh"....tapping....