Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The OD 25 2017: The Ride, part 2

Immediately after getting our in-time, we took the horses to get a drink at the trough and then over to our crew area for a few minutes of snacks.  A volunteer came over to see if we needed help and both horses got sponged a little, although we didn't take the tack off.  I wasn't sure how much of an impact there would be on the horses because of our faster pace into the vet check, but they both seemed to be doing pretty good.  So after a few minutes, we took them over to the pulse-taker for what many people probably thought would be a courtesy pulse (big black horses don't pulse down that fast, they were thinking...), but sure enough, Nimo was already down to 60 bpm just 9 minutes after coming into the hold.  The criteria was actually 64, so we were good to go to the vet.  Nimo's CRI was 60/64 and he got all A's.  My friend's horse vetted through equally well, and we headed to our crew area to discuss our next move while the horses ate and rested.

Our out-time was 12:39 (the hold was 45 minutes), leaving us 1 hour and 21 minutes to go the remaining 9 miles and pulse down.  (I remain consistently bitter that the finish criteria for LDs is different than for 50s and 100s.  I've had more than one person - sometimes sanctimoniously - explain to me that LDs aren't real rides and are just considered training, so the fact that we have to be pulsed down by the maximum time when 50- and 100-milers just need to be across the finish line by the maximum time should not bother me.  Well, it does.  My perspective is #1, LDs are not just training for some of us - they are the best that we can do - and #2, if I'm in training for a 50-mile ride, than I should be acting like I'm on one and doing everything the same, including the finish - don't even get me started...)

I did not think the math was looking that good, although so many people had told me the remaining trail was relatively easy, I thought we had hope.  I didn't know what my friend would want to do, though.  And I admit, I was feeling pretty miserable physically.  The insides of both knees were definitely chafing, I had a mild headache, I felt dehydrated, and I had a back spasm in my upper back.  So the thought of ROing was appealing.  On the other hand, I was convinced that this was my last ride, so there was also an appeal to at least getting the miles done before I called it quits.

My friend, surprisingly, seemed in really good spirits after she had a few minutes to settle her horse and rest.  Apparently, she is one of those people for whom the holds are really helpful because she feels refreshed after resting.  I, on the other hand, never want to get up after I sit down.  But we had so much time that I actually peed (first time ever at a hold!!!), ate something, drank a lot, and even sat down.  I had expected Nimo to act like he had the last time we had come in to the hold at this ride and wander around inconsolably while desperately wanting to get back out on the trail.  But he settled right in and ate the best I've ever seen him eat at a hold and was very relaxed and easy-going.  I'm sure having my friend's horse there with him was what made the difference.  The two horses get along well and were happy to share food and be right next to each other.

And so the consensus was that we would continue on.  At about 12:30, we got ourselves together, found a bench (both our horses are tall), and got back on to attempt to complete the ride.  I was skeptical that we could finish in time, but I thought that if the trail really was easy, we should be able to move out and give it a legitimate effort.  We got lots of encouragement from the volunteers as we headed out right on time.

We walked the horses for just a minute or two to let them warm-up a little and then we started trotting.  Nimo was leading at that point and felt almost as fresh as he had at the beginning of the ride.  My friend's horse was also in good spirits and motivated, and it wasn't long before he took the lead (he seems more comfortable in front, although we do swap out every once in awhile even if it is just for a few minutes because I think it is important for him to get a break from leading).

But it soon became clear that "easy" is a relative term that must mean vastly different things to different people.  While we did not encounter any 2-mile climbs, there were some steep, shorter ones and also more than a few rocks.  At this point, though, my mental state was a little better.  Nimo's hoof boots had now stayed on for a record 7 miles without incident, the light at the end of the tunnel was faintly visible, and I was really looking forward to being off my horse.  So when my friend started to have a case of Tourette's syndrome every time she saw rocks, I started (quietly) giggling.

We trudged along for miles, trotting occasionally when the footing was half-way decent and we weren't climbing or coming down something too steep.  When we hit the power line section of trail several miles in to the loop, though, I was cursing the name of every person who told me the trail was easy.

This is the one picture I took on trail because by then I knew we were going to make it to the end, maybe not on time, but we were going to get the miles done.  It's right at the top of the power line section of trail and you may notice that the trail looks like it just drops off and then goes down steeply.  That is not an illusion.
We happened to be riding with a couple of ride 'n tie runners at that point and they mentioned seeing people (presumably on tiny Arabs) come cantering down the trail on previous rides.  These people are certifiably crazy (the cantering people, not the ride 'n tie runners, although I do believe they have some mental issues too).  I did manage to trot Nimo down short bits of the trail to keep up with my friend's gaited horse's walk, but I'm not sure I could have sustained a trot down the whole thing, much less a canter.

Once we made it off the steep power line trail, we turned into the woods and into, you guessed it, more rocks.  There was one place where I think we had a discussion about where the trail even was because there were so many big rocks everywhere and zero ribbons.  I guess we figured it out, though.

One thing that was adding drama to the ride for me was that I could hear a loose buckle on Nimo's right hind Easyboot.  It started just before the power line trail and I had thought about asking the ride n' tie runners to take a look for me, but I didn't want to slow them down because those poor souls were running the trail.  I also thought about getting off to take a look because there were lots of big boulders to use to get back on.  But I kind of suspected it might be upsetting to my friend, and I knew if we missed the time to get in by 2 minutes or something like that, I would never live down stopping to check that boot.  (You might point out that if it came off, I would have to fix it anyway, but I am really good about procrastinating when facing situations that I don't want to face.)

So, with every stride I could hear the buckle clicking.  But the boot didn't come off.  It didn't come off when we went over some rocks and it didn't come off when we started trotting, even when we trotted over rocks.  It was a mystery that would have to remain unsolved for the time being.

And then, miraculously, the trail started to be less rocky and easier.  We started doing a bit more trotting.  Nimo took the lead again, probably about 3 miles before the end of the trail.  He still felt good and he happily trotted on a winding trail through the woods (which is normally not the kind of trail he would like to trot on).  But within a few minutes, I could hear my friend yelling, "Slow Down!  There are rocks!"  I possibly laughed out loud this time (I don't think she could hear me) because I think I saw one 3" rock.  The poor woman just could not handle the sight of another rock.

And so we walked a bit and trotted a bit, and the sun beat down on us relentlessly as we slogged our way to the end.  Probably about 2 miles from the finish, I knew we wouldn't make it on time.  It was 2 pm, and that was the maximum time.  But, we were close to the end, and we wouldn't be as late as I had thought we would be when we started the trail.

One concern I had in addition to the loose hoof boot buckle was that Nimo was stopping to pee a lot, which is not normal for him.  I thought maybe he was so excited to get back to the trailer that he wasn't fully emptying his bladder when he stopped, but I was also worried something else could be going on.  He was not lathered up, though, and his movement felt smooth and normal, so that seemed to rule out tying up.  I should note that this frequent peeing has occurred twice before on conditioning rides.  The first time it happened (about 2 years ago), I had the vet out, thinking Nimo might have a bladder infection.  The vet found nothing (other than the cleanest sheath she'd ever seen), and the behavior wasn't repeated until over a year later, again on a conditioning ride.  I never figured out what was going on the previous 2 times, so I was definitely paying attention, but not freaking out.

Finally, we got on to the section of road that marks the last 1.5-2 miles of the ride.  I wanted to crawl in the shade and get out of the never-ending sun.  The high that day was only supposed to be 75, but it felt much hotter than that (Weather Underground reports the actual high was 80).  We mostly trotted, walked a little, and then it was over.  At 2:18, we rode up to the in-timer and got our official in-time.

I got off and we walked the horses to the crewing area to let them drink and eat a little as we pulled our tack off.  Nimo had not drunk as much as I'd hoped at the hold, so I was happy to see him dive into the tank and drink deeply.  He also started inhaling grass like he was starving.  He didn't want any carrots or hay, just grass.  He had definitely still had lots of energy left and the only sweat was under the saddle pad.  After maybe 10 minutes, we took them over for a pulse check.  I was actually not sure that Nimo was pulsed down.  I never use a stethoscope, but so far, I've always been able to sense when he seems close to 60 bpm.  I thought his breathing still seemed a little rapid, and the pulse-taker confirmed that he was still at 68.  So it was back to the crew area for more water (he drank deeply two more times) and more grass.  I also sponged him and pulled both hind boots off.  The right hind boot had stayed on the whole rest of the ride, even though the cotter pin that holds the buckle must have snapped off and the cable had come out of the buckle.  Luckily, the cable had somehow caught on another section of the buckle and pulled tight, so it was never in danger of coming off, but it was a pain to remove.  I took the hind boots off because I know Nimo doesn't like them, and I thought getting rid of anything annoying might help his pulse come down faster.

I waited about as long as I dared before bring Nimo back for a pulse check.  Part of the reason was that there were some other people vetting in.  They could have been 50-milers at the finish or maybe 100-milers vetting in for the next day, but either way, I didn't want to interfere because I was already out of the completion time.  The other reason for the delay was that I wanted to give Nimo every chance to get pulsed down within 30 minutes.  If he didn't, I knew we'd be headed for lots of rechecks and discussions with the vet because I'm positive that every OD vet who looks at him sees a metabolic failure waiting to happen.  It might just be my warped perspective, but I often get the sense that vets think I'm clueless about horse care because they can't fathom why any intelligent human being would bring a 17 hand Friesian to an OD ride.

Don't get me wrong.  If Nimo needs medical care, he's going to get it.  But he was acting like he was still ready to go, and he had drunk so much that I thought he'd corrected at least part of the deficiency he'd had leaving the Bird Haven vet check.  Plus, he would not stop eating and moving around.  So I wasn't really concerned that something significant was wrong.  I did think the hot sun was not working in his favor, though.

At 2:47 (29 minutes after we arrived), Nimo was pulsed down to 60.  His CRI was actually 60/56, so he was recovering well at that point.  He got all As, except for gut sounds because one side was quiet.  The vet gave us an overall score of a B because he took so long to pulse down and the gut sounds were quiet on one side.  I got the sense that if his CRI hadn't been so good and she hadn't seen him stuffing his face with grass with her own eyes, she would have considered a metabolic pull.  But then the vet looked at me and said, "You could have had a completion if you'd come in on time."

And I just wanted to cry.  Not because we didn't get a completion.  (I have always maintained and continue to maintain that getting a completion isn't why we do this.)  But because there is this crazy focus above all else on completions.  I have come to believe that coming in overtime may actually be considered worse than a pull for lameness or metabolic issues.  I overheard or was part of so many conversations with people whose horses had been pulled, and everyone was always sympathetic (as they should be) and they would share stories of their own that were similar.  But when people found out I came in overtime, they often felt compelled to do the math for me.  "If you just did each mile a minute faster, you could get a completion."  It's as if coming in overtime is merely a demonstration of how incompetent a person is at reading a watch or GPS device or perhaps can't add correctly.  I'm not sure that a single person ever considered that the slower pace might have been necessary to save my horse from a metabolic pull.  (Not every person I shared the information with reacted badly - some were supportive - but there were enough that weren't that I feel compelled to write about it.)  And to be honest, the slower pace was more of a default than intentional, and once it was clear we weren't going to make it on time, I saw no reason to push the horses faster than the nearly 6 mph pace that we averaged for the second loop (which is really not that bad!).

The thing is, in hindsight, I think Nimo didn't drink well enough at the hold and if we had done the second loop half an hour faster, giving us enough time to beat the maximum time and have 10 minutes to pulse down, Nimo could have been a metabolic pull.  He could have ended up on an IV or worse.  And so it wouldn't have been a completion, it would have been a train wreck.  And that's something along the lines of what I said to the vet.  Hopefully, with a matter-of-fact tone and not a bitchy one, because I really do try to treat all the vets and volunteers with respect.  They work very hard and without them, I would never have a chance to see what my horse and I could do, but I felt so upset that the vet would say that, especially with the delay in Nimo pulsing down.  It had to have been clear that a faster time could have had negative repercussions and to sort of chastise me for my time seemed nonsensical.

Anyway, my friend's horse had pulsed down a little faster than Nimo, but she waited for me and tried to help me while I got Nimo pulsed down, which was really nice.  Then, we walked what seemed like a mile back to the trailers to get the horses settled.  Both looked good and ate and drank and napped.  My friend and I relaxed and ate and drank too for about half an hour before getting in my truck to pick up our crew gear.  I knew if I sat too long, I would never want to pick up my stuff.

When we got to Bird Haven, it was quiet and I got a chance to talk to the volunteers for a few minutes.  It turns out that I don't have a bad memory about the rocks on the OD trail.  Lots of riders reported significantly more rocks on the trails than last year.  I guess all the rain we've been getting the past few weeks created a lot of wash-out on the trails and that was the reason we saw so many miles of those 2-5" sharp rocks scattered everywhere.  A lot of times were slower than usual and riders were also reporting shredded pads on their horses' feet.  In fact, I saw some riders post pictures of shredded pads and even virtually non-existent ones at the end of the 50- and 100-mile rides.  My friend's horse did not have pads on, so maybe it wasn't such a bad thing that we took it easy on those rocks, especially because I think there were at least a few stone bruises reported.

Which brings me to why I chose to use hoof boots on Nimo for this ride, despite the frustration they caused.  They protect his soles better than shoes and pads.  I didn't know the ride would be as rocky as it was, but I always feel better about the sturdy protection offered by hoof boots, and when we were riding over those sharp rocks, I was grateful to have them. I would have felt comfortable trotting Nimo over them while my friend, whose horse has shoes, did not.  And while there aren't that many miles of gravel roads (probably a total of 6-7 for the whole ride plus a very short bit of pavement), I like the performance of hoof boots over shoes on pavement and gravel. My friend's horse slipped more times than I can count on the gravel road leading into Bird Haven and Nimo didn't slip once.  More than one horse ripped at least one shoe off on that trail.  I know one lady was able to overcome her horse pulling two shoes off and still get a completion, but that is the exception to the rule.  You may remember in the first loop, Nimo slipped and stepped on his other foot, ripping the hoof boot off.  Well, the hoof boot was toast, but his hoof wasn't.  If that had been a shoe, things night not have ended as well.

Another reason I use hoof boots are that I can handle any problem myself.  I don't need to rely on a farrier that I don't know at a ride to reset a pulled shoe (and I would have had to put a boot on anyway!).  Nimo can have trust issues about strange people handling his feet, and if I can avoid having to work with someone he doesn't know, it's less frustrating for everyone.  I can put the damn boot on all by myself.  I can trim his feet by myself.  I can fix the boots by myself.  I can carry extra boots by myself.

Then there is the matter of finding a farrier to shoe Nimo in the first place.  I luckily do have access to one in the area that I know is good, but it's either a long drive for him or for me, and I'm not sure that I would get shoes often enough for Nimo to become comfortable with the farrier, making each visit annoying for everyone.

Finally, you may remember that I suspect an abscess is in Nimo's right hind foot.  When I took his hind boots off at the finish, he was really difficult about me handling that hoof.  He was kicking (not at me, but in general to let me know he was pissed off), and it took me three tries to get it off.  That is not normal behavior for him and it tells me that even though he is moving soundly, there is still something going on in that hoof.  I question whether anyone would have been able to get a shoe on and whether it even would have been a good idea to be putting nails in that hoof.

I absolutely understand why people overwhelmingly choose to use shoes instead of boots, particularly at this ride.  Because so few people use boots, it's hard to get a good comparison of how boots versus shoes hold up, but I'm pretty sure anyone who used boots would have at least one problem while the majority of people who use shoes experience no problems.  But when there is a problem, it is often much worse than a lost boot and can involve lay-offs from riding while the horse regrows part of his hoof or heals from a stone bruise.

So the final deal on hoof boots is this, if I had to do it over again, I would use the hoof boots again.  And the next time I am at that ride (YES, there will be a next time!), I will likely use hoof boots again.  If I do decide to use shoes, I would definitely get pads too.

In terms of other things that I could have done differently, there are four that stand out to me.  One is that I would have given Nimo a dose of electrolytes at the start of the ride (not necessarily at the hold, though).  He did not drink as well as I expected at the 10-mile mark or at Bird Haven, and although his hydration parameters were good at the hold and at the end of the ride, I think if he had drunk more at the hold, he would have come in to the finish able to pulse down faster and he could have handled a slightly faster pace.  I think part of the issue was that we walked so much in the shade during that first loop that he didn't feel tired or hot and so he didn't think he needed to drink.  He did so well at the end - better than I've ever seen - and even at the hold, he did the best I've ever seen eating, so I think the elyte dose is a matter of fine-tuning what was good and making it better.  After the ride was over, his recovery was amazing to watch.  After napping for an hour or so, he perked up and it was like his coat kept getting shinier and his body looked so toned.  I couldn't stop looking at him.  The picture below does not do him justice.


The second thing is that I have got to figure out why I'm getting the skin peeled off the inside of my knees.  My left knee is worse than my right, and even several days after the ride, I still have ooze coming out of the wound.  I'm thinking my half chaps combined with my longer stirrups are the culprit.  I've noticed some minor rubs over the past few months, but they weren't consistent or painful, so I didn't really think about it that much.  I am using longer stirrups this year because that seems to prevent my right knee from getting jacked up 10-15 miles into the ride, which causes endless complaining on my part.  I'm also using the same half chaps I always have except I bought new ones of the same brand/size after Foxcatcher and there must be something about the fit that is different from my old ones.  I hate to give them up because I love them, but I also love the skin remaining attached to my body, so I'm going to have to experiment before the next ride.

The third thing is that I have got to take care of myself and be mentally prepared for this ride.  I can get away with a lack of focus and being exhausted on easier rides, but not this one.  My friend was upset and I knew a lot about how she was feeling because I suspect it was pretty similar to how I felt at my first ride, when my horse unexpectedly acting like a lunatic and the trail was challenging and the time kept slipping away from me.  But I need to keep my own focus and my own sense of self, regardless of whatever is going on around me.  Nimo relies on me to keep it together and there were a lot of miles that I wasn't doing a very good job at that.  Mentally, I need to prepare better for this ride and make sure I get more rest and eat and drink better, even if it means taking an extra day off work before the ride, so I can take a nap and focus on myself for a day.

The fourth thing is obviously the pace.  My initial thoughts were that I didn't know how we could have improved our pace on the first loop, but I know we finished a little faster the first time we did that section of trail and we had even more hoof boot issues than this time, so there has to be something we can do.  I think that something is trotting more on rocks.  The rocks weren't there before but they are now and they are unlikely to disintegrate before my next attempt, so I've got to figure out a way to do it.  Lots of other people did (33 to be precise - that's how many completed the ride), so it must be a matter of practice.  Admittedly, there were no drafts or draft crosses at this ride (that I saw, anyway), so this is just not a ride that is easy for bigger, heavier horses.  That doesn't mean we can't do it, though, just that we have to find a way to improve our time just a bit (it's just a minute a mile after all!).  On the second loop, we could definitely shave some time off.  Having a slightly fitter horse, who can handle a faster pace on the shorter climbs may help a little, and just being really focused on time and taking advantage of every section of trail that isn't steep and has smaller rocks is going to be important.  I think my mental state can be just as critical as Nimo's physical condition for improving our pace.  If I'm not depressed and worried and upset, I'll be able to better identify places we can move out, instead of feeling like everything is hopeless so why even try.

In terms of what is next, I'm not sure yet.  I think I swore out loud and in front of witnesses no less than 8 times that I was never doing another endurance ride after the OD.  But after sitting around for about two hours, I started to think that maybe I could do something easy like Blackwater Swamp Stomp or even Foxcatcher again.  And then, I started to think about improvements I could make if I ever did the OD again (like finding some horrible place to condition that is nothing but miles of rocks!), so it looks like my endurance career was only over for a few hours before being reinstated:)  Ride between the Rivers in WV is on my list, but it's a tough time for me to take off work and of course, it's August, so temperature may be a factor.  Definitely Mustang Memorial and Fort Valley in October are on the list, assuming I can keep Nimo in halfway decent shape during the next few months.  And maybe something in NY if I can swing the time off of work.

And if you're wondering about my relationship with my friend, well, it's actually in pretty good shape.  It didn't take long for us to be laughing at how miserable and pathetic we were on the trail.  I think the big problem was just that she really didn't have an idea of what to expect and I didn't do a very good job of explaining it.  Also, the trail was more miserable than it was when I rode it before and that threw me off.

But endurance riding isn't called Fun and Games on Horseback for a reason.  A real endurance ride, regardless of distance, should test the mental and physical capabilities of horse and rider.  I did have some actual, real fun earlier in the year because the rides were easier for us and we didn't do a full ride.  It was wonderful and I hope I can have fun again.  But I also really want to do this OD trail.  It sucks and it's hard and we've failed twice now, but our second attempt was a whole lot better than our first attempt, and I have to think that the third time might just work out.  As luck would have it, Bruce Weary posted on the AERC Facebook page shortly after we got home from the OD.  He talked about how it took him 7 tries before he successfully completed Tevis.  I know that the OD 25 isn't the same as Tevis, but Bruce's post was a much-needed reminder that failure is really only failure if you stop trying before you succeed.  Otherwise, it's just part of the process.

And so, our journey continues...

30 comments:

  1. I've had several overtime pulls. Mostly they were due to young horse brain training and choosing to deal with issues right here, right now, as they came up and sacrifice the ride, versus potentially creating a major problem down the line. Much easier to teach them to speed up versus try to teach them to slow down once they've learned "fast is fun."

    That said, I concur with you on how LD finishes are structured versus 50s. I've worked timing at half a dozen rides now, and have noticed that the people that race in on LDs will still race in, regardless of the "pulse time determines your placing" directive. Have pulled several people at the finish because the horse didn't pulse down within 30 minutes, so if they're going to race in anyway, might as well make standards the same across the board. Not to mention how confusing it is for the volunteer pulse-takers (especially non-endurance riders) to try to explain to them the difference between the two standards.

    Anyway...I think the people that get so hung up over "you went overtime?!?" have not had to *work* for a ride completion. Naturally gifted horses, naturally more bold/confident of a rider, whatever the reason. But speaking as someone who has had either less-than-suitable horses, or spending time in the young horse training category...very little about endurance has been easy for me to date, so I can understand and sympathize with where you're coming from, and give you a hearty commendation for still sticking with it. I think it's fabulous what you and Nimo have accomplished, and I'm so glad that you're still determined to stick it out.

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    1. Thanks, Ashley! I think your comment is just what I needed to hear. It's good to know other riders have come in overtime and learn their stories:)

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  2. I do wish they'd change the 25 mile finish time to be the same as the 50s. The people who race race anyway. Giving the less experienced riders effectively 30 minutes less to finish a ride just make us have to push our horses harder.

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  3. I think you did a great job! And I'm glad you want to do it again. You are spot on about trotting rocks. You learn what easy rocks and hard rocks are and you trot the easy sections. Come to Dolly Sods and we will show you! OD also forces you to make time on the gravel roads whether they are up or down. So practicing work on those (I like to do that when the weather is too wet and shitty to ride trails) will help you too. All very very doable things! You've totally got this :-)

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    1. Thanks, Liz:) And yes, somehow I've got to find time to come to Dolly Sods. Your pictures are always so beautiful!

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  4. Fun fact: Gambrills State Park is just 10 minutes north of me and has more rocks than Dolly Sods and the OD put together. If you can trot that trail, you can trot anything. ;) Accompanying "OH MY GOD THESE ROCKS WILL NEVER END" mindfuck included.

    Note on RBTR: that is the one ride I will never go to again. I'll tackle the OD 50 all over again before attempting RBTR one more time. The rocks are smaller but sharper and it tends to be a very very wet ride: it is a rainy time of the year in that part of WV (both times we've gone it has rained the week prior to and the day before/day of the ride) which both increases the humidity and makes the rocky footing a million times more treacherous with slick clay mud. There are a lot of short, steep uphills and downhills that still give me nightmares. You do ride through the river itself which is awesome for cooling off the horses and the prettiest part of the ride...but it pretty much ensures you'll be losing boots left and right. It is the only ride that tore Dan shoes off of my horses. The OD trail rocks didn't make their shoes budge at either No Frills (which had OD-level rockiness AND mud when we did it last year) or Fort Valley.

    Your logic for sticking with boots is precisely the logic I had for so long with Lily. :) Literally every reason you have were the reasons I had, right down to the trust issues with Lily and new people handling her feet. Until the goddamn boots lamed her: she was sound at Fort Valley in 2014, where I last used boots on all 4 hooves, but she ended up with swelling from a laceration on the back of her pasterns caused by both hind boots partially spinning during the last loop and cutting into her. I spent 2015 having nightmares about boots at rides, and when I was relieved that Lily was lame right before National Championships so I wouldn't have to deal with hoof boots on the OD trail again...I realized I needed to change my hoof protection priorities. I was tired of shaping her hooves to fit the boots too: that is all sorts of wrong and it's one of my biggest pet peeves about hoof boots. I'd rather shoe and pad in order to shape the shoe to the shape her hooves need to have in order for her to be sound.

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    1. Regarding Dan: if you started using him, I'd use him more too. He drives longer to come to me than he would have to drive to come to you and even with that long haul, his prices are still more reasonable than local farriers'. We would buy him lunch and coffee as an additional bonus for the trouble of coming to us. He taught me how to remove shoes after a ride, though I have been known to hire our barn farrier to do that for me because Dan shoes horses so freaking TIGHT that they are near impossible to remove! Haha Hence why they consistently survive OD and Dolly Sods trails. ;) And I'd still rather get off and remove a loose shoe myself and replace it with a boot once, than have to get off every 5th mile to replace a boot yet again. Dan uses tiny studs for grip on his shoes so the mares moved a million times more confidently in them than either barefoot or in boots: they had so much more traction than in either situation. The only times either mare will offer to canter downhill is when they are wearing Dan's shoes.

      The other thing that made a huge difference for me when switching to shoes was that I suddenly had so much more TIME. We completed the OD 50 with only a couple of minutes to spare because we had so many boot problems. We completed the No Frills 55 in 9 hours of the 13+ that were allotted for completion despite walking at least a third of those 55 miles...because I never had to get off to fix boots. The other huge thing was that I could suddenly hydrate myself properly: I didn't outright share this on the blog at the time, but when riding with boots I used to *deliberately* dehydrate myself so I wouldn't also have to get off to pee in addition to dismounting for fixing boots. Rides were so much easier on my body when I could allow myself to drink the appropriate amount of fluids for that type of effort.


      The two shoes that came off (one on Lily and one on Gracie, both at RBTR last year) did not rip the mares' hoof walls. They just popped off because of the rocks on that trail. Dan places nails fairly low, so I was rasping the nail holes off within 2 weeks of removing the shoes. The girls were shod 5 times last year with barefoot time inbetween rides that were more than two months apart, and they came out of shoes in November still gravel-crunching sound. :)(They are still both barefoot; I only shoe for rides where hoof protection is required.) Annnnd...both mares adore Dan despite seeing him so infrequently. He has a gift with horses.

      Not doing a hard sell here (I admire your persistence so much!!), just telling you my experience having come from the same exact thought process as you and how shoes have been an absolute godsend for me for these uber-rocky rides where hoof protection is mandatory. :)Given Nimo's current abscess situation, boots are *definitely* a better choice right now...but in case you are reconsidering in the future, there you have it. ;)

      I think you are doing amazing things on the endurance trail with Nimo, and I agree that LDs should have the same finishing times as 50s and 100s. And also: coming in overtime should be seen as a plus over being pulled for lameness or metabolic issues! I completely agree with Ashley's take on it.

      When it comes to rider care, I'm happy to go into detail on what worked for me in terms of food and hydration, if you think it will give you ideas to try. It was honestly harder to figure out that than what worked for Lily because we tend to focus so much on the horse that we forget about ourselves! :)

      You and Nimo are awesome. Don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise. <3 And so ends the longest comment ever in Blogland.

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    2. Thanks, Saiph! I always love your comments because I feel like they are so informative - they are like mini-blog posts!!! I really haven't ruled out shoes - I feel so lucky to have Dan as an option and I'm pretty sure he would be able to improve my work with Nimo's hooves. I just feel so overwhelmed that it's hard for me to contemplate a significant change when I can muddle through now. I'm willing to bet I will have some kind of epiphany like you did with Lily's boots that will change my mind in the future. And what I really want is to ride with you so I can pick your brain in person. So maybe I can schedule a trip to ride at crazy rock park soon??!!

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    3. YES! We need to meet up!! :D

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  5. Gail, hooray for overtime. I am appalled the vet said, "You could have gone faster." WTH!!! The appropriate thing would be, "RESPECT. You put your horse first today."

    Also, doesn't Nimo have the best ears? Can you get a close up photo of them for me?

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    1. Thanks, lytha:) And yes, I will get a close-up of his ears and do a post just for you!

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  6. The finish line criteria for LD's annoy me as well, but I have a different perspective on the "why". I think they determine finish time by when you pulse not when you cross the line because they want to prevent people from sprinting the shorter distances and hurting their horses (a common newbie mistake). While I think that part makes sense (come in at a pace that allows your horse to pulse quickly, and learn to take care of your animal at the same time), I think they can do that AND allow you an added window to pulse since many LD riders have non-Arabs who need a few minutes, even if they're being ridden conservatively. It's something to suggest to the board!

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    1. Yeah. I heard people saying that last loop was "easy" last year too. I had to gallop the whole damn thing to make the cut off and I really thought I was going to die. It's not EASY at all. Just not as horrible.

      I heard from Bob Walsh that the rocks were officially more exposed than they ever have been. They talked about re-routing the trail to the National Championship course, but someone** on the OD board said that would be "dumbing down the OD". I'm all for dumbing it down. There's challenging and then there's ridiculous. I did the OD 50 and the LD, and unless I get a 100 mile horse to try with, I'm good on riding that particular course.

      I think coming in OT to spare your horse is honorable and I hate that anyone acted like it was anything else. Sure, you could have made it if you went faster. People who completed could have top 10'ed if they went faster! Or, going faster could have killed or injured your horse. Any time I see an OT pull in results, my first thought is that there were external factors and that the rider had to choose to slow down to take care of their horse. "That person can't do math" has never crossed my mind. I'm sorry your experience was so negative in that respect.

      I am glad your friendship is in tact and that you're not throwing in the towel on the whole sport just yet. RBTR is a good one. Rocky but not stupidly so. I can't say I recommend NY rides because every time I do one, I swear up and down that I am never doing one again -_-

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    2. Thanks for the encouragement, Dom:) And the tip about NY rides. I've been toying with going to one for awhile but so far the schedule has t worked out. I heard the new one over Memorial Day was muddy as hell, so I'm kind of glad that one didn't work out:) And it's also good to have the validation about the rocks. I was feeling so stupid for not realizing how rocky the trail was and misrepresenting it to my friend, so it's good to know my memory still works!

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  7. What Saiph said. What lytha said. And what Dom said. All of them make good points!

    A few thoughts for you, since I ride a large dark horse, although obvs not nearly as large as yours:

    LD's, and eventually endurance, need not be out of your reach. HOWEVER, you (and I) need to strategize about the rides we attend. I can do a hot, hard ride with my mare...but I'm not going to do the 75, and I'm not going to go fast. I can do a cold ride with lots of hills...but I'm going to clip off the hair (even the legs) before we leave, and I'm going to ride with a heartrate monitor (which I have to borrow, because I ran mine through the washing machine). I can ride (carefully) through rocks, because my horse has shoes, pads AND a layer of latex (it's the stuff used around the edges of bathtubs) and we practice "dancing" though rocky minefields on our home trails. I can ride faster than usual through mud because we PRACTICE this at home--there are always riders in my region who go OT when the trails get muddy because they avoid bad trails at home and don't have the skills they need. Build skills. Maybe you won't need them, but it never hurts to have them.

    RE: the boots, you have good reasons, but listen to Saiph. You are losing time chasing the damn boots through the bushes, and you don't have tons of time to waste. Glue on, maybe. Or get in touch with a fabulous farrier. Or learn to shoe? Or...? I can't help you much, I live 3,000 miles away and my farrier is a goddess. Maybe you can find a goddess too?

    RE: overtime. It's your ride, you can do what you want with it. But I think you can finish on time AND safe AND have a sound stable horse if you can cut some corners on the time elsewhere. If you decide it's a priority, and want to put some braincells in that direction, let me know if I can help.

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    1. Thanks, AareneX:) And yes, I am lucky to have such great readers who give me great advice and will even ride with me! And
      Saiph's farrier is accesible to me, and I know he's a good one, so the shoe option is always on the table. It's a matter of logistics, and as you pointed out, priorities. Also I can be infuriatingly stubborn once I get something I my head:)

      I do ride a lot of less-than-ideal trails for just the reasons you said but I've never seen a trail with rocks for such a large percentage of the trail as the OD. I will head up to the trail Saiph mentioned and try it out but it's at least a two hour haul one-way so I'm not going to be able to do it twice a week.

      The thing is, with working part-time and having a young daughter with no family in the area to help out, it is an incredible challenge for me to ride, much less train for endurance rides. I've been giving myself permission to do what I can do and not stress too much about what I wish I could do to be better.

      That said, I really think the OD (and maybe No Frills) are the only two rides in my area that are so challenging, we risk coming in overtime. At this point, I think we'll be OK on other rides, barring something unusual, so I'm not too worried that we'll spend every ride over time or dealing with metabolic issues.

      As for the heart rate monitor, the main reason I don't ride with one is because I dont think it will work with Nimo's girthline. The sensor needs to be under the girth (I think anyway), and I'm not sure that will work for Nimo. I could get one for the holds to do a check, but it really hasn't been necessary because he tends to pulse down reasonable quickly without a lot of effort (we don't do hot rides, though).

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    2. Aarene, do you have a post or anything regarding how you're shoeing with latex?

      I have a Paso Fino who ripped off 3 shoes AND his pads at a ride that wasn't particularly rocky or bad. Shoes had been set about 3.5 weeks prior. I KNOW that it was a crappy shoe job now that my trimmer has him at her place and can see what he did (he's fired, by the way...apparently he's GREAT for my friend's 100 mile Arab, but my Paso has some special foot needs that he didn't listen to me about, and I'm too clueless to know any better right now). But...extra tips on how to help with shoes would be nice. :)

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    3. My farrier (the goddess) is coming this weekend to shoe Fee for Renegade, so I will get pictures and write up stuff for y'all.

      Are there specific questions you want me to ask her?

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    4. I would be curious to know what material is used for the pads - after seeing so many pics of shredded pads after the OD, it would seem that finding a durable material would be important if I decide to go that route:)

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    5. Here ya go: http://haikufarm.blogspot.com/2017/06/in-which-foxie-loxie-has-few-words.html

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  8. My record has...2 or 3 OTs? And, one of my last ROs was because I KNEW if we kept going we'd OT, and, quite frankly, I was sick on trail and not willing to continue beating myself for another 25 miles.

    Thing is, I don't mind those OTs. I did the entire trail, didn't I? I saw the same things everyone else saw. Heck, I paid the exact same fee as everyone else, but I got more of my money's worth of scenery, didn't I?

    My second OT, my horse was NQR on trail. I made the deliberate decision to pull over and give him 10 full minutes of grazing, grain, loosened cinch, WHATEVER he needed to not crash on me out there. I had a fantastic endurance rider tell me recently (almost a year later) that she remembered seeing me out on trail, just doing my thing, and smiling. She said that, to her, I was a bad ass that day, just enjoying myself. And thing is...except for when he felt NQR, I DID have a great time.

    So screw anyone who shames you for going OT.

    Also, I waffle back and forth on boots. I used Scoot Boots (I know, sadly, not yet big enough for Nimo's feet, but I THINK I heard they're releasing larger sizes soon?), and for 21 miles, they performed nearly flawlessly. I had minor twisting on the rears, which I think contributed to some minor (very minor) tightness in her rump. Gave her some more electrolytes which I add CMPK to, and we went back out for the last 7.5 miles. Again, rears started twisting, but staying on. I said forget it, removed the rears, and left her fronts on and we kept on chugging. Completion.

    My other horse; shod. Which both worked...and didn't.

    So, I understand wanting to boot. And I also remember loving the shoes...but stressing about what do I do if he pulls them off?

    It feels like a no win situation sometimes.

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    1. Thanks for sharing, shayla! And I've been toying with the idea of trying the Scoot Boots. I think the largest size may fit Nimo. I rode with a friend who was using them and she told me how great they were and then she promptly lost one on the trail and never found it. Nothing is more threatening to an endurance rider's gear than telling someone how great it works!:) But the thing I like about the Scoot Boots is the pastern strap. With the Easyboots, as much as I hate replacing gaiters, they almost always save the boot for me and I can often ride for a few minutes (even trot!) until I find a good place to stop (with a giant boulder or stump or just out of the way) whereas with other boots, it's an immediate need to stop or the boot is just gone forever. Have you had any experience with the pastern strap helping to keep a loose boot on for at least a few strides?

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    2. Perhaps? I've had them do a full and complete 180 twist on me and they've stayed on, but I can't say if that was the pastern strap or the toe straps.

      I do know that on conditioning rides I have pushed them as hard as I could by going through some sucking mud, gnarly puddles and they've performed flawlessly. Their only failures were when I didn't do the pastern strap tight at all and they came off. I've even had a toe strap come undone and they've stayed on. -SO FAR- (will that shake off the potential for failure? Hope so!) they've worked well for me. I couldn't get Renegades to stay on my Pasos, which annoyed me to no end.

      Also, while it sounds like OD was AWFUL, perhaps look into Hoof Armor as well? I've used it a few times and really like it. I also know other endurance riders using it with success. In fact, there's a lady who does Tevis on her Morgan with ONLY Hoof Armor. I know my tender footed princesses couldn't do something THAT brutal, but...it did get one of them through a fairly rocky ride sound, which impressed me. That was after my Renegades failed within the first 2 or 3 miles. Annoying suckers.

      I did say if Scoots didn't work, I was going to go Gloves next. I just find the whole boot/shoe thing to be more draining than saddle fit at times!!

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    3. Hmmm...sounds like Scoot Boots may be worth trying. I like that they are lighter weight and simpler that Easyboots. And thanks for the reminder about Hoof Armour. The OD requires 4 shoes/boots but it wouldn't hurt to try it and have it has a back-up. The second loop is not as rocky as the first, and I could probably do it with front boots and Hoof Armour on the back.

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    4. As extra insurance, it's cheap and works with hoof boots. And it's easy enough for even a doof like myself to put on. :)

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  9. Keep trying! You'll get there!

    Re: hoof boot issues, I train barefoot or in boots, and compete in boots or sometimes EasyShoes for 50s. It can be frustrating at times, but I've got it mostly sorted out to be 99% successful. I did LDs on both of my horses a couple weeks ago, and tried a new boot strategy that worked well.

    You wrap the hoof with athletic tape a few times, then apply Sikaflex glue to the bottom of the hoof, then apply hoof boots as usual. You have to put it on the night before, as Sikaflex takes 6-8 hours to set. It dries soft and squishy, so it is a multi-purpose pour in pad AND adhesive. Bonus.

    I forgot the tape on my STB and didn't use enough glue. Her fronts were fine, but one hind boot started to twist when she was racking on a section of paved road, so obviously that adhesive bond had failed. So don't forget the tape ;)

    I also did absolutely ZERO prep for the glue. Literally brushed the manure off the hoof and applied the glue/boots. You could clean them better and perhaps dry them a bit with a mini torch, and that would likely result in a stronger bond. Per the blog I read, it isn't necessary, but if you REALLY want those boots to stay on....

    My other horse has a bad scar on her hind heel bulb and can't wear any gaiters above the hairline, so she just uses original EasyBoots with no gaiter on her hinds. I was worried about losing one and didn't want to deal with it during a ride (but also didn't feel like putting on EasyShoes for just 25 miles), which was what inspired me to try the Sikaflex. Worked great. I DID remember the tape on her and used adequate glue, and it was perfect. They were actually rather hard to get off.

    Just a thought. If you're still committed to boots, try some other strategies. Also, I make my replacement cables shorter so they clamp down tighter, so it is really hard to get the clamp flipped down. I go through cables faster, but it is worth it not to deal with boot issues.

    Good luck, and don't give up yet! :)

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    1. Thank you for the hoof boot tips, TheOtherHorse! I hadn't thought about glueing, but that's a great idea!

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    2. Do you have to dremel the glue out of the boot or anything? This is quite an interesting idea. I knew about the athletic tape trick, but hadn't considered applying some glue for extra hold!!

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  10. Gail, I'm so impressed you do this at all! Juggling work and a child is hard enough. I'm in the same position and consider it a huge win if I do a just a lesson ever other week, nevermind an endurance ride. Kudos to for doing it and putting Nimo first!

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    1. Thanks, Kara! I'm glad to know that someone else is out there trying to make horses and children work at the same time!

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