Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Ride Between the Rivers 2017

Sunny and I received our first Turtle Award!!!  Definitely got our money's worth in hours on the trail, LOL!  Also, I had my heart rate monitor on me instead of Sunny to participate in a study comparing the intensity of exercise of endurance riding to other sports, such as long-distance cycling.  Here is what Jerry (the researcher) said about the results:

"Your maximum predicted heart rate was 185[220-35]. Your average heart rate was 133 therefore your maximum predicted percent heart rate was 72%. This is almost exactly what the average has been turning out and comparable to a bike rider doing 100 mile race. You are tough to be able to do that for 10 hours and 42 minutes"

But to start from the beginning... I made some adjustments to (hopefully) prevent a repeat of the tying-up episode at Old Dominion.  Sunny was treated for Anaplasmosis, I switched his diet to the low-starch, high-fat/fiber Triple Crown Senior,  I rode him lightly in the arena for about 15 - 30 min every day the week prior to the competition, and I did about a 20 min pre-ride the night before.  It worked -- no muscle stiffness, tying-up, or any other problems! Yay!!!  He also looks a lot better having gained some weight since switching his diet  -- he went from about a 4 - 4.5 Body Condition to a 5- 5.5 BCS.

Also in the 8 weeks between OD and RBTR Sunny has had some significant muscle changes from our dressage training and me learning what a lifted back feels like, and then asking for it!  (Thank you Theresa!!!) I started to have saddle sweat dry spots under my seat (from his lifting and developing/widening back muscle), so I adjusted my saddle 1/2 turn wider and we had even sweat patterns again (it has a large allen wrench that you insert into the 'magic-hole' and turn 'righty-tighty' for narrower and 'lefty-loosey' for wider).  I love my DP saddle!!

Otherwise everything is getting much easier about going to endurance rides, which is wonderful. Graham and I have a routine and list, we know what needs to be packed, how long it takes, etc, etc. Much less stress about camping, electrolytes, and everything -- So if you are a Green Bean just starting out, things do get easier with practice and repetition!.  Sunny camps like a pro, lays flat out on the high-tie every night and eats better at every ride!   The funniest thing is that he doesn't like to pee on his Hi-Tie or on the trailer, he will hold it until I take him for a walk -- I understand, I don't like to pee at my bed or dinner table either!!  I also would like him to eat a little better by himself on the trailer, but he is improving.  I also just used my previously made electrolytes from OD (I froze them between the rides) and gave Sunny a dose every 1-2 hours, with plain salt the day before the ride.  He doesn't currently like to eat salt in his feed so I am having to give it to him via syringe.  But I just found out the Triple Crown Senior provides about 1 ounce of salt per 5 lbs of food, which is the about the basic maintenance requirement which makes things easier!

Trailering to ride-camp and setting up was smooth, no issues.  I did get a bit of headache/migraine from the intense mountain driving but with medication and rest it was gone by ride morning.  I really enjoyed my pre-ride. Sunny was motivated and gaited the best in his life thus so far- smooth, fast, and fun!  Sleep the night before the ride was in short-supply with lightening flashes and rain keeping us awake for a few hours, then sometime in the early morning loose horses running past spooked Sunny who jolted on the high-tie and caused us to wake-up very quickly to check on him.  All was ok and I believe the loose horses were quickly recovered by their owners.  And the impromptu wake-up allowed us to check on Sunny who felt a little chilly since the rain and temperature drop, so I put a light sheet on him so he wouldn't have cold/stiff muscles in the morning, and also fed him an early breakfast.
Trotting through the river. Photo by Becky Pearman

Ride morning went as planned with plenty of time to eat and warm-up. Graham was wonderful help, making sure I was checked-in with the start-timer and ensuring that I was well-fed with all my gear. Sunny was ready-to-go at the start, but certainly calm and listening well --no troubles with speed or rating.  The trails were quite muddy in parts (I describe it as brownie batter with walnuts!) with large puddles. We were pre-warned that the puddles may be very deep in the middle with dangerous debris; last year one was so deep a horse fell!  So I was very cautious to go around the edges and avoid any deep centers.  The river crossing were absolutely gorgeous -- knee to chest high clear mountain water with good footing of small-medium river rocks.  There was plenty of room for Sunny to splash and self-cool himself without disturbing any other horses too!   He got me plenty wet too, I had to change my soaked boots out for dry sneakers at the first hold.  He didn't drink or eat much the first loop, but steadily improved through the 2nd loop, and by the third loop he was devouring everything in sight -- he really liked a roadside weed with little blue flowers...I think it may be Chicory.
Headed out for the 2nd loop with dry sneakers. Photo by Becky Pearman

I had decided to try my Renegade hoof boots out during a competition for the first time and the mud was a real test!  I put 3 of the rubberband holders on the velcro prior to the ride, knowing all the mud might be problem for the velcro; this worked very well, I didn't have any problems with loose velcro! I did have 1 front boot cable break during the first loop and had front boots slip off two other times with no damage. The cable broke after he had a hard slip at at trot on a front foot at a sloped mud bank going around a puddle; I think the crazy angle with the impact force at the trot was too much torque for the cable.  At the first hold I repaired and tightened the front boots -- I had recently trimmed Sunny and the boots were actually a little looser than normal.  During the rest of the ride the front boots didn't budge.  During the second loop the boots were doing great, until Sunny got excited about catching up to some horses during an area of deep boot-sucking mud.  He powerfully lunged out of a mud hole and left both back boots behind.  When I went to fetch the boots I almost lost mine! And I realized just how slick the footing was when I slipped and went straight down into the mud;  it was very deep (mid-calf) with powerful slick suction.  Thankfully Sunny was somewhat patient with the whole process (even though there were horses in front of him that he needed catch up with!) and I replaced the boots, remounted and proceed down the trail, complete with mud-covered pants and squishy-sloshing shoes! At the hold I was able to change into a fresh pair of tights, socks, and I commandeered Graham's shoes.  At the end of the 3rd loop I finally had a cable break on a hind boot and quickly replaced it with fresh boot.  Overall the boots performed better than expected given the tough conditions.  I wouldn't use them if trying to race, but I was able to easily complete the ride in time and saved the costs of shoeing.  I also noted that if I was slow in the mud I didn't have any problems; I only broke cables at a trot when he slipped or lunged through the muddy footing.. hmmm.

Drying off during the 2nd hold

During the 3rd and final loop I didn't see another horse or rider!  Sunny wasn't very motivated without any buddies and we had plenty of time, so we just mosied down the trail.  We stopped to eat grass when he wanted, carefully walked through the deep mud, and walked the big climbs and descents.  At the radio-checkpoint I enjoyed some delicious watermelon moonshine which made the rest of the ride very relaxing!  During the last mile we picked up a steady canter, I let go of the reins, closed my eyes, spread my arms and flew down the trail!  And at the very finish I caught up to the last riders, but savored my turtle award of last place, 50/50 (54 started, 4 pulls).  Sunny looked great at his completion check, all A's and moving well.

Fritzi and myself enjoying the RBTR swimming hole post-ride!

Sunny and Poptart reuniting post-ride


  1. WOO HOO!!! Great story and I was wondering how Poptart was doing, looks like he is back in the game as well, and you have someone to help at rides and crew for you that is real team work, love it! See you can train them too! LOL Keep riding you are doing so well, I wonder how many of the Gr Beans from your group that started are still at it? Anyone know?

  2. Loved reading your story! Thanks for sharing!