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!


  1. Glad to hear he was back to feeling well by Sunday- hope to see you at K'tat!

  2. Oh, you're doing so well with him! You've got his number. ;)

    How'd the crazy Easyshoes work out?

  3. Good to see you...briefly...maybe we can hang out at Klickitat? I'm hoping to do the fifty there, too!

  4. You two looked So Good out there! I was surprised that you did not finish - but it sounds like you have a Good Plan for next time! :-)

  5. You sure got some nice photos! you too look great!
    So sorry it didn't end so well :(