Monday, May 19, 2014

The need for speed - Mt. Adams 2014

Facts that you need up front:
1.       We were attempting 55 miles at Mt. Adams.
2.       We got pulled for gait irregularity at 45 miles.
3.       I am not sad about this outcome.

He was so calm. So very calm and focused at 6:15 a.m. on Saturday. My good horse, the Zen master, warmed up on a loose rein, gliding through camp like fog on the mountain.

And then he proceeded to try to pull my arms out of their sockets for 40 miles or so. 

What I said back in camp (half joking, half serious) was that if this is what improving his diet does, then I’m taking away the vitamins and feeding him straw from now on.

My theory is that starting close to the front of the pack borked up his brain. He was so calm and easy in camp that I thought, what the heck, why not start at the official start time? Why indeed. We let the hot shoes go and started in the bubble right behind the leaders. The problem was that it didn’t stay a bubble for very long. 

So there we were, caught up in the front 20 of the pack (50 horses in the 55-mile), leapfrogging with horses who would eventually top 10. And Blue was very game. Four weeks off after Grizzly, plus a month on glucosamine and a high-dose vitamin supplement did their work. 

I realize that I have been on my soapbox about control. Serious failure on my part this weekend. I put Blue in a position that made it very hard for him to settle. There were always horses in sight either ahead or behind. Often both. He was controllable, sure. I could hold him to a walk, trot, or canter. He would stop and back. He turned when we needed to. The problem was that I planned on a normal 7 mph trot and he gave me 10mph. He would not settle and sustain a normal travelling pace as long as there were other horses leapfrogging around, and we paid for it later.

I did the math at awards the Sunday. Blue did the first 31 miles in just over 4 hours (not counting holds). That would have put him roughly 5th place if we’d been in the LD. And I’m fat enough we might have even BCed. 

NOT that I regret doing the longer distance. After 31 miles of going waaaay too fast, Blue was sure he was done. Heading back out for another loop was an important reminder that he doesn’t know everything. I know he is just a dumb animal, but there are times that I really savor taking Blue down a peg. Think you’re done, Boy? Not by a long shot.

He abruptly lost the spring in his step at 38 miles. (The same spot that he had a little meltdown last year.) I tell you, he REMEMBERS these trails. He whooshed into the water set on Martins Road at full tilt, certain that we were finally done and would be walking down to Steph’s front pasture. No such luck.

The six or so miles back up the hill to camp found him getting more and more sour. And sore. I could tell he was getting tired because he preferred to canter and walk instead of going at a consistent speed. It is possible that (hindsight being 20/20) if I had stopped, done some massage and stretching with him and given him a long break, we might have been OK to continue. But when we got back into camp at 45 miles, he was barely willing to trudge over to the vets.

His trot-out (which we have been working on) was abysmal. Dr. Jen asked if he was gaited. The real answer to this question is complicated. The answer I gave was that he shouldn’t be, and he’s very tired. And I would rather not kill my horse today. And that he probably used himself up in the first two loops, which was my fault. And Dr. Jen, who is a nice person when you just confess your sins instead of trying to fool her, said not to feel bad. It looked more like sore muscles in the hind end than anything mechanical. Don’t worry, he’ll be fine with food and rest. We would live to ride another day.

I don’t have the vet card, but I can tell you that he was all A’s up until then. His recoveries were good. He ate like a champ all day. The pull was no big deal. These things happen.

I can tell you that when we got home on Sunday it was raining hard. I still let him out in the arena so he could roll in the sand. He tore around looking mad as a wet hen, bucking and striking at invisible enemies. The old man had energy to spare. 

So this week I think I will go out at least a couple evenings and do some massage/TTouch/bodywork to see if we can release some of the muscle tension and speed up recovery.

If he recovers well and tells me he’s ready, we’ll go try another 50 at Klickitat in two weeks. But we will not be starting anywhere near the frontrunners. We will start in the back and stay there, where 7mph is a nice speed that we can maintain all day long with no fighting.

If he isn’t quite ready, we’ll save that strategy for Bandit or maybe even OR100. At this point in the season it becomes a matter of balancing terrain against temperature. If this summer turns out to be a scorcher, we may not get another chance to do a (relatively) easy 50 when it’s less than 80 degrees outside. Time and El Niño will tell.

PS: It was fantastic to see everyone in camp. I love how this ride gets such a great turnout, you see practically all of PNER and plenty of newbies too. You guys are all awesome. Thanks for the support and smiles!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Make money in the horse business

Haha. Made you look! As far as I know, it is impossible to make money in the horse business. If you are here you almost certainly know the aphorism: How do you make a small fortune in the horse business? Start with a large fortune.

You know from reading this blog an all the others that endurance is, shall we say, a money-intensive pursuit. What with all the custom saddles, veterinary attention, remedial farriery and whatnot, it is a wonder I can feed and clothe myself.

Lots of E-riders have side businesses to help defray the cost of competing. Heather has her hats. Aarene is an overachiever who writes entire books. I know others who have gotten into various ventures like Scentsy, Pampered Chef and the like. I started a thread on AERC facebook today to see what others are doing, too. A lot of them were in-person sales. I am not so good at sales. Even worse at "in-person."

So I am here to thank Shana for dragging me back into theworld of model horses, where I have a few marketable skills.

If you are a friend on Facebook, you probably caught this picture of my workbench overflowing with horses in various stages of customization. I consider them my plastic nest-egg.

You think I’m kidding? Feast your eyes on this guy:

Photo by Mel Miller. Horse by Mel Miller. Photo is presented here purely for drool-inducing purposes.

Now, granted, the horse above isn’t one that I did (I wish!). He was created by an outstanding artist in the Seattle area, Melanie Miller. But let me direct your attention to his final bid price at auction:

Yes. That customized plastic horse cost the same as my last two real horses put together.

He started out as this guy, a model you can buy at your local feed store for about $40.

And while I am nowhere near Mel in either skill or the prices I can command, the last one I completed paid for my entry to Grizzly Mountain and all the gas to get there and back. 

I call him Money In The Bank.

Was creating him profitable? Probably not when you figure in all the hours I spent. On the other hand, I do enjoy the sculpting and painting, and I want to be doing it anyway, so the actual cost of that time is hard to calculate.

My real job is salaried, so I can’t exactly pick up extra hours when I need pocket money. Not complaining, BTW. Love my job. But I’m hoping the models will help with the shortfalls when they happen. It would be nice to have a comfy, model-shaped cushion next time Blue decides to maim himself or the truck catches on fire or whatever.

So, here’s who’s on the workbench right now:

Totes Magotes! Is a sabino ¾ paint/Arabian. Tons of individual hairs. He started out a minimal sabino that quickly got out of hand. Now every time I walk by him I feel compelled to tick in a few more white spots.

Big Red’s name is an homage to my alma mater. He’s a chunky QH reiner-type. I’m thinking blood bay with dapples.

The Paso Twins are going to be a seal brown tobiano and a flaxen chestnut. One of them is going to be donated as a raffle item for Shana’s Sweet Onion Live 3 model horse show in August. The other one will be a sales piece.

I'm working o a breed assignment for this gaited pony. Galiceño? American Walking Pony? It has to be someone who can rack because that’s what he’s doing. I completely rebuilt the head from scratch on an armature and am ridiculously proud of how it came out. I’m a lousy sculptor, but I am learning! There are tons of great tutorials out there that didn’t exist when I first got into custom model horses in the mid-1990s.

Don't you just wanna smooch his chunky little pony face?

Barred M Masquerade has a sad story. I actually finished her in time to show her at Bethany’s Card Shark Live back in March. She did great, winning both of her classes and getting a lot of attention because of her weird (but well-documented) color. Well, on the way home she suffered a tragic tail-ectomy and a severed ear. I tried to superglue them, but the pieces didn’t match perfectly and my paint touch-ups were too obvious.

At the show, before her career-ending accident.

Today, back in primer... mostly.
I resigned myself to starting over. She went into a bath of paint stripper to take her back down to bare plastic. After weeks of sanding and scrubbing, she is just about ready to paint again. Should I do the crazy color again? Do I have the energy? Or is it time to make her a more sedate, “normal” mule color?

And when these guys are done, there are a bunch more plastic ponies in the peanut gallery, just waiting for me to approach them with a hacksaw and a vision.

In the meantime, though, I have a real horse I'm taking to Mt. Adam's this coming weekend to attempt 50 miles. The weather looks marginal for Saturday, which is a shame since it is going to be gorgeous all week. Hopefully the rain will stay away long enough to preserve the footing and give us an easy trip. Wish us luck!