As always, I was mixing up/messing around with gear…girl’s gotta have a hobby, right?
The biggest change was using one of Gina’s spare saddles: a Frank Baines Reflex dressage, fully kitted out with extra rings and such for endurance. I’d been having problems with the Duett leaving Liberty with a sore back (that was a first for me…) and after some examination, concluded that the tree was likely too flat for her, coupled with it being maybe just a touch narrow, thus further tipping it back on her loins.
The FB fit her really well (holy wide tree…FB’s 4W tree, which is the largest they offer in that model!) and it was surprisingly comfortable for me. At an advertised 17″ (although I measured it at 17.5…) it’s maybe just a touch small, especially with the deeper seat and higher cantle, but it was super-secure and I felt really comfortable and balanced in it…so it’ll work for now.
In my quest to find/make the perfect saddle pad, I had obtained a sheet of Supracor material, chopped it up into the appropriate shapes, and stuffed them into one of my existing Skito pads. It worked fabulously — I’m a fan of the support of the Supracor material, which doesn’t collapse and compress under pressure the way most the foams do, and it’s really breathable. Making inserts was 1) Cheaper than getting a new Supracor pad and 2) allowed me to use my favored wool underside of the Skito pad.
I used a rope halter under her s-hackamore headstall instead of the beta halter — it takes up a little less space, especially under the chin, and didn’t seem to interfere quite as much. (Even if I do like the look of the beta halter better…*sigh*)
For whatever reason, I switched back to the curb chain on the hackamore — thinking it might be longer/have a little more space than the solid strap — but that was a mistake. She’s definitely sensitive to too much curb pressure, and tucks her head and gets way behind the vertical when you apply contact. (And I ride with contact, which is why she’s generally pretty bold and not spooky, because she knows I’m up there, and I can feel when she’s getting tense or looky and give her a bit of leg or rein as necessary versus waiting until she’s already spooking halfway across the trail.)
So I rode carefully for the first part of loop 1, then swapped out the bottom solid hobble strap off the hack with the chain and the rest of the loop went way easier, and then once back at camp, replaced it with the solid curb strap.
I’m also going to switch out her hackamore noseband, because despite the “training“, the padded one still ends up flattening out versus draping nicely, and that makes it harder to put the bridle on without it being really tight around her nose. (I also may experiment with some kind of “hook” mechanism on the curb strap, kind of like the curb chain on a kimberwick that can easily be hooked or unhooked.)
25 miles has left me convinced I’m not a fan of the Gaston Mercier “comfort” leathers. Great concept, questionable execution: wider and more padded leather uppers, with the more narrow and flexible beta straps from which to hang your stirrups as the lower part. Unfortuantely, the d-ring that the beta straps hang from hits me right in the middle of my calf and creates a ton of pressure, even through the thickly-padded leather (and I was wearing half chaps). It’s possible that getting a longer padded section would alleviate this (or it would just move the pressure point to lower down onto my unpadded ankle bone)…but the company was such a pain to try to work with (customer service oriented…not!) and I had to jump through so many hoops to try to get them in the first place that I’m loathe to attempt another pair…especially since I provided height and inseam measurements and relied on their opinion and expertise for the size I need, since my height puts me somewhat between sizes.
I will probably go back to my old standby of Webbers + fleece covers, although the Australian fenders idea has me curious…
For stirrups, I had a pair of Amidale ones that I was trying for the first time. They were actually pretty good…certainly no worse than anything I’ve tried in the past, and possibly even better…only noticed a tiny bit of foot pressure developing, and that was during our endless walking campaign over the last few miles. Definitely worth trying out some more.
I had to do some problem-solving with her boots along the way. We started in Classics all around (due to materials/color testing), with Viper heel captivators on her hinds after discovering her lameness from Bumble Bee most likely came from a rock getting under the captivator and creating a cut/crease between her frog and heel bulb. (She has very well shaped and defined heel bulbs, which means there’s actually a tiny pocket of space between her bulbs on the Classic captivator, which has a slightly flatter profile. Not normally an issue…unless you’re riding in some very deep and rocky sandy.)
About 5 miles into the ride, after some significant slogging through sand wash, I noticed her develop a subtle-but-consistent head bob on what looked like the left front. She had gotten quite a bit of sand in her boots, and even some small rocks between her toe and the boot toe. When that happens, it pushes the hoof backwards, and in effect creates a “tight” captivator, the same thing that happens if the cables are not the proper length or the tension strap is fastened too tight. She was responding to the pressure on her heels, and as soon as I pulled the offending boots, she started trotting just fine, no head bob.
She’s a good illustration of “select the proper shape of boot for your horses hooves, especially wen doing high-performance tasks.” Her toe angle naturally sits lower than the Classic shell toe angle, even on a super-fresh trim and appropriately short toes. When that happens, it creates a gap at the top of the boot shell that then allows sand to enter into the boot shell at a rate faster than it can empty out of the back of the boot.
I replaced her boots with Vipers at the lunch hold, and we did the second half of the ride, which also had significant amount of sand — everything from fine, powdery dust to pebbly gravel — and when we finished, she didn’t have any sand accumulated in her boots. Lesson learned: She has Viper hooves/heel bulbs, and in high performance hoof booting, attention to detail matters.
We’ve had a bit of an unseasonal heat wave this spring and the ride day was predicted to be a high of 83°, so I took the time Friday afternoon to braid Liberty’s very long, somewhat thick, mane. It served the purpose of helping to keep her cool, and it actually gave me easier handholds than trying to grab her flying mane.
As for myself, though I prefer to be unencumbered by it, I did wear a hydration pack — the same one I’ve used for running, the UltrAspire Astral. I definitely drink much better from a pack versus bottles, and I drank about 40oz of water on loop 1 and drained the pack (60oz) on loop 2. It also didn’t make my shoulders/neck muscles hurt any worse than not wearing it.
I also wore Kerrits IceFil from head to toe: IceFil Tech Tights (I got a pair when they originally came out and I really didn’t like them…weird waistband that sags, hot material…but I loved the pockets and the low-profile silicone grips. They did a re-design to them, featuring a wider and more elastic waistband, and the material feels different and cooler, so I snagged a pair, and I’m glad I did.) and a long-sleeve IceFil shirt. I’ve had the shirt for a bit now, and while I’ve done some hiking (Grand Canyon backpacking trip!) and running in it, I hadn’t used it at a ride. So glad I did — I feel like it really made a difference in keeping me cool, as well as sun-protected, without having to mess with sunscreen. Must get more…I think I may become Queen of Sunshirts.
I also did pretty well in the food department: squeezie applesauce, Clif ShotBloks, Bounce energy ball/bar, and string cheese out on trail; ham, string cheese, pudding, and protein smoothie at lunch.
I electrolyted Liberty Friday evening, and then after we finished on Saturday…thinking I probably could have done some at lunch for her? She drank really well out on trail, and her vet scores were all excellent, but she is a larger-bodied, dark-colored horse…my gut tells me she may be one I end up messing around with e’lyte protocols on, especially as temps and distance increases. (But she’s got to get better with the syringe. Right now, she’s even more of a pain than Mimi…which is saying something.)
I think that pretty much covers it…if there’s something I didn’t mention, or you want more info about, just let me know in the comments!