Sunday, October 12, 2014

Quicksilver 2014

No one looked at the Haflinger all weekend.  You can see why :)
One of my barn friends has been working towards her first LD for a bunch of months now.  I recommended Quicksilver over Fireworks because of my recollection of QS as a bunch of rolling hills, where Fireworks is steeper stuff and has been difficult for Fetti and I to make time.  Friday, we loaded up both mares in Funder's trailer, and off we went to ridecamp!

We settled in, stuck boots on (hers that she'd been riding in the past few weeks to get her mare accustomed to, mine that I'd just replaced a cable and hadn't ridden in since Fireworks), and vetted in cleanly.  Confetti got a B for impulsion, but pulsed in at 32.  That's my girl!  Unenthusiastic about trotting in straight lines as ever.  I opted to skip any kind of pre-ride; instead, we hand-walked over to the first gate.  Just for the heck of it, on the way back I asked Fetti for a brief lunging trot-circle.  Flounce flounce trot!  That decided it:  I would use the stronger bit in the morning.  Both were packed, my preference remains the snaffle, but I did learn from last year and have no desire to be riding a bolting horse again.

Oh, and somewhere in there we had the neighbor-rancher mention that there was a calf that was in the neighboring field.  We were parked right at the very back of ridecamp.  The calf came over and introduced itself.  My friend's mare thought the calf was awesome.  Fetti wasn't quite convinced.

Suspicious look at calf.  What are YOU and why are you here?!
The next morning dawned early and dark, but thankfully not especially cold.  I woke up around 4 and never quite made it back to sleep, but forced myself to generally stay in the sleeping bag so as not to bother the horses.  The less I fuss with her the morning of a ride, the less chance she has of picking up on my nerves!  We mounted up for a 7am start, walked a few laps around ridecamp, and I generally tried to channel the inner Western Pleasure pony again.  Relax, relax.. when it seemed suitably quiet, we casually walked out onto the trail and past the first gate.  It felt like I was riding a carefully contained firecracker.  She was excellent, though, and she kept walking til we hit the first hill and I told her it was okay to move out now, just to take the edge off.

We'd been trotting for about two minutes, if that, when I had my first boot mishap.  The velcro really should have been replaced already - oops.  I hopped off, swore, creatively fixed it, and stuck it back on hoping that would hold.  My friend's boots came loose thirty seconds after we were back trotting.  She tightened them up a bit, stuck them back on, eventually found a rock to mount back up.  Within the next two miles, I was off at least twice more for the same damn boot, and I was done: I had no idea why it was failing, it was early, and I was really, really tired of getting on and off the horse.  Sure, she'll be crooked, but we finished Fireworks with just the one boot: it won't kill her or lame her or anything.

Naturally, Fetti took a funny step about 2.5 miles into the ride and informed me her remaining boot was coming off too.  One of the cables had totally come loose.  I suspected this had probably been going on with the first boot, and this second boot was at least not going to be fixable on-trail, so I tied it onto the saddle and hopped back on again.  We were losing time in the best part of the foggy morning.  It wasn't an intentional barefoot decision - was I going to lame my horse riding her at speed through unfamiliar terrain?  Would I have to abandon my friend at the vet check and have her finish her first LD alone?  This was not how things were supposed to work out, and I knew we needed to keep a moderate-brisk pace to the check to have a hope of making time, especially if I was going to have to walk her through anything rough.  Argh!

Not the cow we chased, but note the pony ears.
 'Can I chase this one too?'
And then there were cows.  Cows!  There was a whole herd of cows hanging out right across the trail.  We couldn't exactly sit around and wait for them to meander off, so I paused a second, then asked Confetti to trot directly at the cows.  'Shoo!'  Five calves took off down the trail away from us, and we trotted right by the rest of the herd with no problems.  Fetti seemed very pleased with herself.  I would totally take this horse cow-sorting.  It absolutely made my morning and neither of us got pictures of it, but take my word for it: it was awesome.

We did take a bunch of walk breaks for the mares to recover, which made for some pretty excellent photos.  The fog was absolutely gorgeous and delightful.

Fog bank behind us.  It was amazing.
Originally, my vague timeframes had us at the vet check around 9:30, two and a half hours after start.  We were told it was approximately halfway, 12 miles or so.  By 9:30, I thought we were probably getting close, but we were clearly not there yet.  The mares wanted to walk, so we walked.. some trotting, but mostly walking for most of the mile into the check if not more.  We arrived shortly after 10 and had been made aware by other riders that they had a hose there for us.  Yay!  But what the heck, sure, go ahead and check her pulse just to see what she's at, I'm sure she won't be down.. and she was, easy, 56 and dropping.  I hadn't even scooped water onto her at the check yet.

Miraculously, Fetti vetted sound in the semi-gravelled parking lot.  I parked her by the hay, nibbled on some of my own food, and generally quit worrying.  It was easily the least time-pressured hold I've ever had.  It probably helps we were nearly the only ones there!

Unfortunately, my friend's horse would not pulse down, even after pulling tack and repeated hosing.  All my stress went there instead.  Had I pushed too hard and too fast?  Sure, she wasn't my horse, but I was the one setting the pace for a new rider, and there was definitely some guilt that perhaps I'd done wrong by her somehow.  Confetti and I left the check alone.  There was nothing I could do, the horse wasn't in distress, and it wasn't going to be helpful for me to Rider Option pull.

Not fifteen minutes later, going up a nice steep hill after the vet check, Fetti made it very clear that I was wrong.  We should not be going this way.  The 50s are going the opposite direction.  Our friend is in the opposite direction.  Human, I will back you off the side of the hill but I will not go forwards.  I'll have another post on that later, but in short: this is her preferred evasion and I've never really figured out a way to manage it.  Suggestions are very welcome.  I beat her with the whip; she backed up.  I beat her more; she bucked.  I backed her up the hill - she resisted, I felt guilty because it was an awful hill with lots of rocks; I'd offer to let her go forwards up the hill and she'd go straight to backing down/sideways again.  Emotions went from frustration to anger to despair, and I finally got off and hiked up the damn hill, because at least then she'd go forwards, and she was not going to win that battle.  I got back on once on that hill, and she went straight backwards again, and I swore some more and got off and hiked again.  (I looked at MapMyHike, and it looks like we went up 273 feet in 0.4 miles.  I have no idea how bad that actually is, but it was full sun with lots of rocks and a very obstinate horse.)

Eventually she let me get back on and kick/swat her into a forwards trot, and we went zooming along the trail until a 50 passed us going the opposite direction.  I walked to pass, and that was the end of it.  Backwards towards the side of a steeper cliff.  More swearing.  More hiking.  Less hill!  By now I was pissed and grumpy enough to jog some of the sections.  Alternatively, if we were walking I reinforced that she had to keep up with me.  There was too much cliff and not enough left-side mounting spots for me to dare getting back on and having her back straight off again.. it just wasn't the place for that fight.  Maybe we wouldn't make time - probably we wouldn't make time! - but damnit, we were not turning around.

Finally the very last LD caught up to us, and suddenly life was better!  I knew which direction we were supposed to be going!  We weren't all alone in the wilderness!  So back up on the horse I went, and off we trotted with renewed enthusiasm and slightly reduced pony death threats.

Once Fetti deigned to go forwards, we actually made pretty good time heading home.  I think she would have moved out more on the first half, but felt obligated to make sure her friend was keeping up and still in sight.  No complaints there: it's how we ride with her at home, and it gave me a horse that was polite, relaxed, and content on a loose rein.  With the new last-LD rider's horse, she didn't feel so obligated to make sure he was keeping up.  We rode with her for a bit (the only time all day I saw anyone else for more than thirty seconds!), then eventually left her behind as Fetti kept on trotting down the trail and her horse stayed slower.  I had to remind myself not to feel bad, that we'd both perked up our horses with the riding together, and that there was no reason I had to ride with her into camp, not that she'd even suggested it!  Ride your own ride.  Sometimes that intersects with others' rides, sometimes they wander off and that's okay.

I'm not sure exactly what time we came into the finish, but Fetti pulsed down in under five minutes and that was pretty delightful.  I still had horse left.  I liked my horse again.  We still had a full 30 minutes before we would have been overtime.  Even better: the final LD rider that I left alone on trail finished in time too!  I thanked her profusely again when I saw her at the vetting.

Even without the boots, Fetti vetted out with (almost) all A's.  The vet did suggest shoes if we were looking to continue in the sport, but was understanding when I told her we'd had a Very Bad Boot Day and started out booted.  Fetti doesn't like to trot on sharp gravel - I know that, and I'm okay with that.  The trot lane was the worst footing we had all day.  She did get another B on gut sounds, which worried me not at all.  She was eating and drinking well all day.

Lessons learned:
1. If riding with a friend, I definitely do not need the stronger bit, and I suspect I won't generally need it if riding solo either.
1b. If/when we try a 50, I need a way to easily swap bits at the first hold.
2. Ride with boots at least once within two weeks prior to the actual ride.
2b. Current lesson: replace cable clamp and I think my issues will resolve.
3. Electrolyting alone does not avoid migraines for me.  Suggestions?  (1x Thursday, 3x Friday, 3x Saturday, approx 3-4 hours in between doses)  I need a better handle on that before I can confidently try a warm 50.
4. Fetti reverts to backing when being obstinate (scared, disagrees with trail, whatever).  Suggestions to resolve?  It's not something I can trigger on demand, which makes it difficult to have a trainer work with us to fix it.
5. Switching out Camelbak bladders halfway through worked well, but I should start with the slightly-smaller one for the morning.  I can supplement with a Nalgene bottle for longer rides/loops.
6. I need to replace my HRM watch battery -- it had a display only occasionally throughout the day.  Not the sort of thing you want to discover at 6:45am at a ride.
6b. I can now ride reasonably well without the HRM, but it would still make me feel better to have it coming into checks.  (I did get it on briefly a mile or so out from the vet check. 74 while walking gave me confidence she was doing fine.)
7. Confetti can do a 25 on decent footing totally barefoot with no ill effects.  No panic necessary.

More photos behind the cut.

This is all I saw of my horse most of the time.  She was fine with that and nibbled in peace.

All we could see of the trail ahead of us for the first hour or two.  I loved it.

Fog bank off to the side and below us.

Lake in the center - here we're around the back of the park

The best thing about riding slow is that nearly every time we took a walk break, I'd take pictures!

Rolling hills, slightly less fog.

Closer to the lake, but still a few miles out from the vet check.

The back of the park felt more like this: scattered trees with some low-hanging branches to duck under.
Gravelly road and a beautiful view.  The gravel(?) did not elicit any complaints from the pony.

The fire roads/singletracks after the hold all looked about like this, so I didn't get many photos.

The trails wander around through the hills.


  1. So happy for you guys! Fetti looks awesome this year - you're giving her exactly as much work as she wants, I think.

    "Ride with boots at least once" is such a no-brainer, and it's so hard for any of us. I kinda think the people who have to boot every ride have it easier than those of us who only boot for the long/rocky rides!

    Hope L&L are doing well today. Give Fetti a bite of something from me - and make it something GOOD, human. An apple, not a wisp of grass hay. ;)

    1. Awww, thank you!! That means lots, especially coming from you. Two apples for the pony yesterday :)

      L&L are much improved, with lots to think about and things to work on prior to their next attempt - and I think there will almost certainly be a second attempt.

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you! It was even prettier in person.

  3. What a great ride! I'm glad you were able to work Confetti through her tantrum; that sounded pretty epic. LOVED the photos! The ones of the fog are absolutely stunning. How did your friend's mare recover? Was she able to continue later or did she pull?

    1. She pulled - it was a 30min hold, and she hadn't pulsed down by my out time, so that was that. Mare's doing fine, though, thankfully nothing major and there was nothing I could have done differently at the ride to avoid it.

  4. congrats on completing a good ride - with some nice takeaways for next time. good job working through the backing evasion tho - sounds like it got a little dicey. and nice pics!

    1. Thank you!
      I'm still not convinced we actually worked through it, but that's tomorrow's post ;)

  5. Congrats on the completion! That backing evasion sounds wicked...but the news on a mostly barefoot ride is pretty kickass!