Post-Game Analysis: Wickenburg 25

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.

IMG_5823

Meet Frank. Frank has only been used once before this and still smells like new leather. ♥

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.

IMG_5197

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.

IMG_5791

Amidale stirrups…of course, the best part is they’re orange!

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.

boot comparison copy

You can see the differences. While her feet aren’t necessarily that round (she fits into more oval-proportioned Viper sizes of 140×135 and 140×130), in her case, it’s the angles and captivators that make a difference

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.

IMG_5820

Lots of mane to braid

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.

2016-Wickenburg-1198

UltrAspire Astral pack, IceFil shirt, IceFil tights, Jodz half chaps, Ariat Terrain boots, Tipperary Sportage helmet, Buff headwrap under helmet.

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!

Post-Game Analysis: Bumble Bee 2016

I need to stop thinking and just post this, especially since I have another ride coming up this weekend.

Given that it’s been two years since I’ve been to a ride, I kind of felt a bit like starting from scratch. During that time period, I’ve managed to change out/swap/acquire different gear, most of it untested in an actual ride environment.

The Horse

I had some weirdness this time around with getting her halter-bridle to fit well in conjunction with the s-hackamore. (Which I don’t understand because it’s the same setup as previously and it didn’t get used on anyone else.) I think I’m running into the same situation that I do with Mimi – their heads are fairly short, length-wise, so I run out of real estate to have a halter noseband plus an s-hackamore…and still have the curb on the hackamore make appropriate contact. She also has big ears (sorry, mare), so I’m wondering if the headstall-style halter-bridle may not be the best option, as it’s really tight to get it over her ears…but if it’s easier to put on, the noseband sits too low, and if I’d be better-served going with the bit-hanger style. (Which I historically haven’t liked for trying to bridle with a bit and keep the bit in the mouth while fumbling with bit hanger snaps…an s-hack shouldn’t have that problem.) Further justification for tack hoarder behavior.

S-Hackamore: Given that I don’t work with her on a regular basis yet, I use what she usually goes in, and that’s an s-hackamore. I made one change and swapped out the curb chain for a solid beta curb strap, since the last time, she was acting super-fussy and would drop off contact (hate that) and go behind the vertical when the curb chain would engage. She did much better with the solid strap, although I had to use some authority on her a couple of times when she started getting competitive. Still, I’d rather have that, and have her learn “some contact is good,” since that is how I ride.

In the future, I would like to go back to some basic bitted work with her…she could do better on yielding, and really work her on engaging her hindquarters, working on some contact, and getting her to shift from the shoulders to the hindquarters. (Noticeable when she “drags” herself around on a tight, standstill turn versus doing a nice, from-the-haunches pivot.) She may also be a good candidate for working in a Myler Combination bit, as that offers so many opportunities for contact and release. Plus more groundwork.

Saddle: Unfortunately, I think it’s “three strikes and it’s out.” (Someone send a Money and/or Saddle Fairy my way, please?) Three rides, three different saddle pads, and sore all three times. I initially thought it may be too narrow (and it still might be, thus tipping back on the loins, also causing me to fight against it), but now I also think her back isn’t actually as table-like as I thought it was, and the saddle probably doesn’t have enough rock to it. So saddle shopping will eventually be on the table.  And the Duett is Mimi’s saddle, so it’s not going anywhere. (Ahem, Money Fairy???)

EasyCare Ultimate Stirrups: I am a revolving door of stirrup purchases. This was my latest one. I had high hopes for them, but after doing a ride, I am forced to conclude they are no better than my normal plastic EasyCare ones, and have some aspects of them that I didn’t care for after putting them through a ride, such as a somewhat sharp edge to the aluminum (looking at the dirt/sweat patterns afterwards, I can’t help but wonder if they would end up rubbing the horse’s sides), as well as the top slot is supposed to fit 1” leathers – they are a tight squeeze to get in there, and I worry the sharp edge will start cutting into the stirrup leather.

Gaston Mercier Comfort Stirrup Leathers: Don’t love them, don’t hate them. Want to put more miles on them, as well as play around with how the stirrup leathers loop onto the fender and see if I can make it more streamlined, because as it is, I can feel it as a potential pressure point. Really want to like them, because the leather is lovely and the fact they loop around the stirrup bar with no buckle means that part is super-comfortable.

Skito Dryback pad: Even had new inserts, so I can’t blame that for back soreness. Love my Dryback pad, although I had a hard time getting it centered this time. Which is what happens when you’re using to easily seeing over your pony’s back and now you have an extra five inches to try to see over.

Stillwater mohair contour girth: 24”…and fatty errr… “fluffy” mare could almost use a 26”, since I had to start at the very bottom holes on my billet straps, and gradually up to the second holes.

Boots: I was a material/color test guinea pig for the weekend, and the test boots were done in the Classic model. Liberty is actually a better fit for the Viper model, especially with her toe angle, which is just slightly lower, even with shorter toes. They all stayed on, but we scooped up quite a bit of sand in the washes, and ultimately discovered what we think was the source of her lameness pull: it looked like a small rock had gotten between the captivator and her heel bulbs and created a cut on her coronet band line. When I was poking and prodding her leg, I noticed what looked like a small cut/crease in the area and poked at it, and she flinched a bit…but I figured “surely something so small can’t actually be the cause, right?” Apparently it could. So tough, and so delicate, these creatures. (Which then goes to my own internal debate of “Is it better to have a stoic horse or a wimp? As exasperating as it is sometimes, I’m more inclined to go with ‘wimp’ since they let you know right away if something is bothering them.)

The Rider

The only thing different was my Irideon Synergy tights…and I love them. Must get more. I was initially worried that the multiple seams would cause some rubbing, but so far, so good. Granted,  I would like to take them through a full 25, and a 50, before proclaiming they’re the most awesome end-all, be-all of riding tights…but I’m really liking them so far, and I did some active riding. As well as dealt with part of my sheepskin cover creeping up and bunching up under my leg/seat, and that didn’t cause any rubbing or issues.

However I managed to forget everything I have learned about taking care of myself in my quest to “hurry up and keep moving”. Ate: Nothing along the way. (Fail.) Drank: A few sips of water. (Even more fail.) If I can’t be bothered to fuss with water bottles, I may need to go back to wearing a hydration pack for a while to re-train myself to actually drink. (Running pack is so much better than the old Camelbak…I should try that out riding one of these days.)

“Race brain” doesn’t just happen when you’re “trying to win.” We were not going fast (3 hours to do the 16 mile loop), but I still let myself get sucked into that mentality of “move along , must get down the trail, must not get caught on time” to the detriment of settling in and enjoying the ride.

I had a very enlightening conversation with Bruce Weary at the AERC Convention about learning to relax when you’re in the saddle and how that saddle time is the rider’s time to settle in, let the horse take care of you, make sure you’re hydrating, and not getting to mentally wound up. (Easier said than done.) And then the vet checks are the time for you to take care of your horse…and then once you’re in the saddle and on trail again, rider relaxation time. That’s not something I had every considered — normally I’m the “crash for 30 minutes or however long I have at the vet check” type — probably because Mimi has required a very “on” ride, and I’ve ridden a lot of new/younger horses…so I’ve never learned to relax. (FWIW, a similar thing has been pointed out to me by friends — that I have to learn to relax, go with the flow, and stop being so uptight/controlling/nitpicky when I ride, or I’ll burn myself out on 100 milers.)

Food for thought, and definitely something for me to work on.