Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Any Tips, Tricks, or Hints for our 1st LD?

Let's Imagine . . .

As you already know, Arabee and I are getting ready for our first AERC Limited Distance ride. I'm hoping things go as smoothly as possible so that we have a very positive start to our distance career.

The plan is to arrive in ridecamp the night before with a CLEAN horse, get Arabee settled in, take her on a walk to stretch her legs, maybe even saddle up for a short ride (say...15-20 minutes?) to make sure she's nice and loosened up. The trailer ride will be just a little over 1 hour. I'll get her a big tub of water, and put out plenty of hay for her to munch on at will overnight, maybe a salt block, or loose salt in a tub as well? Haven't decided on a restraint method: tying to the trailer, using an electric corral, or buying panels to make a solid corral. Vet in, then let her relax as we get the human camp set up. Arabee does not currently require being fed any concentrates, so I'll just be sure she has hay in front of her at all times. Will I need to put a blanket or sheet on her?? She is not going to be clipped.

On the morning of, I'll wake, get dressed, check Arabee's hay and water, then eat breakfast myself. What's left to do aside from tacking up as usual and heading to the start??

We'll complete the first loop at a comfortable, conservative pace then come in for the vet check and hold. I'll dismount, loosen the girth and breastcollar and walk her in, get my in-time, then take her to the water and offer a drink. Then to the pulse gate, pulse down, then to the vet, jog, hopefully pass (with mostly A's!) then to the crew spot for the rest of the hold. Here's the part that gets a little blurry when I try to picture ride day: Now what?? Take a bucket of water and a sponge/rag to wipe the mud off of my horse's legs and belly to check for any nicks and scrapes and get her girth area clean. Should the tack come off? If the girth or other tack is muddy make sure it gets cleaned. Check her feet. Stuff hay in her face, make sure there's a bucket of water she can reach easily. Keep her hindquarters from getting chilled. But I'm thinking the horse's job at a hold is to rest and eat and drink as much as possible before time is up, and probably for the rider and crew to get the necessities done ASAP and then leave the horse alone to eat and drink and rest. As for me, I'll almost certainly need to pee, put on a jacket to keep from getting chilly while holding still, eat a nourishing snack, replenish fluids....should I try to sit down and relax, or should I stand and keep moving? When it's about time to go, I'll get ready first, then get Arabee ready, give her one last mouthful of hay and then mount up to be ready to go when the out-timer says it's time. Then head out for the second loop!

For the second loop, while we'll certainly still be riding conservatively, if Arabee gets a good report from the Vet, perhaps we'll try to keep up a bit of a faster pace (trot more) than was kept at the first loop. But since my only goal for the first several rides is simply TO FINISH....conservative is likely where the pace will stay!

Upon finishing I'll plan on using the same strategy as I did coming into the vet check and hold. Unless there are only 5 riders (yeah right...there will be more than that!) we will not be anywhere near finishing fast enough to be able to stand for best condition judging. But I'm thinking similar practices will need to be done at the end of the ride as were done at the vet check. After receiving our completion, we'll head back to the trailer and untack, get the horse clean, park her in front of water and hay, keep her from getting chilled, but once she's clean and has feed/water just leave her alone to relax a while. Then I'll change clothes, eat something nourishing, rehydrate, and hopefully get to relax a little while! We'll likely head home later that same day, so we'll get the camp packed back up and ready to hit the road, for what will hopefully be a very restful night's sleep at home! the above is almost 100% guaranteed to NOT be the way it actually happens - things are going to come up, the weather won't cooperate, and who knows what all might happen. But....for anyone out there who is more experienced than me when it comes to endurance competition (which essentially EVERYONE!! :-)) there anything you see in my basic plan that is just wrong?? Or do you have any even small tips for me to help make things go more smoothly? I'll have at least one adult helper to crew for me, which already is making me feel relieved!

I'm starting to get VERY excited about the first LD of the season. Hoping it can happen in April, but if not, there's always May....or June....or who knows, anything can happen! But I'm still really looking forward to it, whenever it may be.


Crystal said...

I've never done any rides like that, but Im interested to hear what others say, cause to me it sounds like you got a pretty good plan set up. Should be fun.

Anonymous said...

I never ride the day before. (but some do and it doesn't hurt but don't wear her out). Clean is not really that important. Just keep the saddle and girth area clean. I have never been to a ride, yet, where I've had to untack for a vet check. So I don't. Why make more work for yourself. ((But some vets do ask for the saddle to be removed))MAYBE let your girth
down one notch. Don't do it too much or a horse could go nutso, I've seen it before. Always take off your bridle so your horse has free clearance to eat and drink. Have drinking water at the vet check area. Main thing is try to keep your horse eating and drinking as much as possible.

I don't feed my horses grain. But I do for an endurnace ride. I only start a couple days before the ride. Start with a little and add more as you get closer. Then quite a bit on ride day. Mix it with damp beet pulp. Start adding a little powdered electrolyte to the concentrates the day before the ride. Then more the morning off or dose it in. Which is what I suggest for ride day or if your horse won't eat it in grain. (Don't need a salt block if you add electrolytes, which is what I recommend. A horse looses much more than salt in sweat.) Try to find an endurance electrolyte or one low in sugar.

I wouldn't blanket her unless you normally do or unless it's much colder than normal for the time of year. Remember, clean does not matter, it's not a show!

I used to use electric corrals. But I would be very cautious if you do. This really well for some horses, and is the best option if it can be done, but not all horses will stay in an electric pen. And they very easily can get out when another loose horse is running or if something spooks your horse, etc. I've seen it too many times! I would like to get hi-ties but haven't found the money yet. If you tie to the trailer you need to walk your horse some in the morning to loosen her up from standing in one spot all night.

Oh, and don't forget to get your vet card and vet-in the day before. (I don't think I see that mentioned but I'm sure you know)


Marlaina said...

I am new to this whole LD thing too (not to horses but to this type of riding). I think you've thought about a bunch of stuff that I probably wouldn't have. And I am eager to see what other advice you get too. Most of all, good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hi Nicole!
I'm so excited for you! I'll tell you what works for me and you can decide what works for you...
1.Containment-I use a electric pen and have had good success with it.You have time to practice at home in her paddock to get her accustomed to it.Tying to the trailer-doubt you'll get much sleep!
The hubcaps on your trailer can be dangerous as well.There is a little clip-on device you can attatch to the fence to make sure it is charged(valley vet?)Also you sometimes need to pour water on the base of the ground rod if the soil is dry.I do have friends who have used the high tie with much success but you horse can never pull back on it.
2.The vet will usually tell you if he wants saddle on or off.I set up my collapsable metal wheelbarrow with treats,polarfleece,etc so i'm not dumping everything in the dirt.
3.I use beet pulp w/perform and win nite before,morning of afternoon after a ride.Summer games makes a great buffered electroylyte you can just squirt right in their mouths.
4.Take care of yourself!I eat a powerbar the morning of a ride(about 5:30)and drink at least 8 oz of G2 gatorade.I bring 4 bottles of G2
on the ride and I'm usually thru another at 15 miles.At the vet check you are holding your horse quite abit for your pulse down,sponging,
she will try to eat others tasty hay!So you don't always have much time to drink.I like to sponge all the large vein areas.
5.I would not give my horse grain if they were not getting it at home.I've seen horses get "grain brain" and make the ride miserable for their owners.I never change up food before a ride.
6.Relax and enjoy the scenery! I just treat a ride like a large trail ride
so my horse won't get any racy ideas...
7.Watch the veteran riders.Most people(once they see you at ride after ride)will give you tips you haven't thought of.Your horse is unique and you will figure out what works best for you both!

Alicia and Synsation

Danielle said...

I'm very excited for you!

First off, once at the ride if you have ANY questions - ask!! I quickly found distance riders to be the most helpful group of folks I've ever met. They'll give advice, lend equipment, and help you so much!

I don't know what your longest conditioning ride has been. When I did my first LD, I was on a friend's horse who was in better shape than me. My longest conditioning ride had been about 15 miles and I was SO SURPRISED to find out how tired I was after 15 miles on the trail; let along 30 miles. So, rest up and eat well! and make sure you take care of yourself too! And expect your knees to give out when you dismount. I know mine did at my first ride! ;)

I'm a big fan of beet pulp, if your horse will eat it. It soaks up a lot of water and helps slow digestion down, ensuring that the horse's gut stays fuller, longer. Especially now knowing Huck has developed ulcers from long-term stall rest, I'm even more adamant about making sure his gut is constantly working on something! If you're currently not using any concentrates, I'm not really sure how to advise you. If you do decide to opt for adding concentrates, start adding it slowly and realize that it takes about a week for the horse's gut to adjust to a change in feeding routines.

I would blanket depending on the temperature. If it's raining - use a rain sheet to keep Arabee dry. Otherwise her muscles will get tense from being cold and wet and potentially cause problems. If you're not blanketing at home, I would probably skip. Butttttt, I'm also the kind of person who would say "It's a little chilly and she's going to work hard tomorrow and I want to make sure she's warm tonight so her muscles stay relaxed" and throw on a light sheet for the night.

At the hold, you're right on. Make sure she's eating and drinking well. A lot of our rides here in the SE require tack off at vet checks unless it's cold or a really short hold (say, 15 minutes). I almost always pull my tack, especially if it's warm, because it helps the horse cool easier. Think about it - keeping a warm, sweaty saddle pad and saddle on the back holds in a lot of heat that you want to dissipate! However, if it's cold, I leave the tack on the keep the back warm.

You'll likely find that Arabee wants to eat what the horse beside her is eating at the hold. I always ask a fellow rider before my horse chows into her grain. I like a nice sloppy beet pulp at the hold and good hay, +/- grain depending on the horse's metabolics and tendencies. Remember that grazing does good! Grass is high in water, and it's a good roughage. It'll help keep her hydrated and keep her gut moving.

Nicole said...

Michelle - Horses going nutso over a loose girth?? Tell me more! This is something I do first thing after my feet hit the ground after riding....usually a good two holes, and let the rear billet loose hasn't caused a problem yet but I'm interested in learning why this is dangerous.

My cousin showed heifers in 4H, and led her calf with the lead rope in her right hand and the loose end over her left shoulder. Something CRAZY and unexpected happened and somehow that calf got the lead rope wrapped aroud my cousin's neck and drug her that way for a while.....NEVER AGAIN will I put a lead rope over my shoulder!

So while I haven't had problems before...I'd like to hear why, so I can be proactive!

Nicole said...

Everyone - thanks for the tips and well-wishes! If you think of more, or anyone else has things they've thought of, pass it along! I still have time now to change bad habits or keep myself from making mistakes on ride day or in camp! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Maybe I just hang around the wrong people. D.'s daughter's horse went nuts when he felt his saddle loose on his back at a vet check. He kicked her, almost got the vet, took off bucking, saddle sliding farther back. Ended up falling over backward on pavement. Saddle tore off and horse tore into the woods.

I have even seen it before at a 4-H show I believe. I'm surprised you haven't.

I also seen D.'s horses get loose from their electric pens on 3 consecutive rides. At the third, they ran out into the woods in the night. One was found the next morning the other two were lost for 6 weeks. One of those was the same horse that went nuts with the saddle loose a year later. Same ride I believe. She stopped doing that ride. But other horses have gotten loose at various rides. Hers just seem to be the ones that are hard to catch.

Also, the second ride I ever did my horse got loose. Before I had my own trailer, I was going with D. and had just unloaded the horses and put them in the electric corral together. Her mare turned and kicked at my mare and my mare jumped the fence catching it with her back legs. Ran thru the neighbors fence and then ran around camp. Luckily, we got them all caught and put back in thier pens. Had to seperate my mare from D.'s horses though.

An old pro will probably not be bothered by a loose saddle on their backs, even at a trot out. But some young, or inexperieced, or bad experienced horses may not be able to handle it. If the saddle slides too far back the girth irrites the horse, and if it gets to the flanks you can easily have a rodeo.

Recently, I have tied to the trailer and had an electric corral around my horse at rides. Also, I sleep better KNOWING my horses are there. I like to be able to hear them.

I would seriously consider feeding your horse something else other than just hay at a ride. Beet pulp, is inbetween hay and concentrate. It is processed in the hind gut, so it is more like hay. At the very least, feed some beet pulp soaked, and get her used to it at home first. ((mine usually don't like it alone and that is why I have to add grain in))


Anonymous said...

Also, I want to say that if you want to trailer out to my place to ride you are more than welcome. It maybe too far and I understand. But you could bring your husband and baby and they could stay in my house with my kids and husband. I have a loop that I can stretch anywhere from 11 to 20 miles. That is a mix of narrow paved and gravel roads. I also have woods trails. Just email me if your interested. The invitations remains for Jacke as well. FYI, Laura can't ride with me this weekend. I am planning on riding saturday and sunday after church. Hopefully a long ride on both horses Saturday and a shorter ride sunday.


Endurance Granny said...


I recommend beet pulp as well if your horse will eat it. We always serve ours as a very soupy wet mash with added cool command feed in it. If you can get it, go with beet pulp without molasses in case she's at all sensitive to sugars. Otherwise, pre soak it, rinse it (yes a lot of work!) and then feed in a wet mash. Phebes eats this stuff everyday. In the winter it helps to keep her hydrated as she will slurp it up when she won't drink her water. In the summer it gives me one more opportunity to give low dose e-lytes.

I do want to encourage that Arabee be up to about three hours of trotting for entry to your first ride. You also want to be up to all that trotting. Otherwise you will just flag out at about halfway through. I know I hit a physical wall (being older and not as in shape as younger riders) at about 15 miles, then it becomes WORK. The slower I've gone on rides, the more work I've found it is for me as rider. Which makes sense as you are out there much longer. You have all season to get it done, so definitely do what you feel is the best for you and Arabee. Remember the old adage....ride YOUR OWN ride. To me that is the heart of things. You will know when she's ready quicker than any of us. ~E.G.

Endurance Granny said...


I'll come back out for a ride soon as we get back up to speed. We'd slow you guys way down right now.


Nicole said...

Michelle - thanks for the invite! One of these days I will likely take you up on it! I do wish you lived closer, though. I also plan on responding to your emails...just haven't made the time to do it yet.

EG and Danielle - As far as me pooping out before the horse, sad as it may be I am sort of planning on that! I've committed to riding 2-3 times per week, but I need to also add in committing to jogging on my own 2 or so times per week to get my fitness up as well.

We'll see how it goes timing-wise, when the first ride ends up being. Still shooting for Chicken Chase - but it's not so important to me that I will risk my safety or Arabee's for it. The season in Indiana STARTS...not ends in April, there are other rides.

Mel said...

So when I read this post I had so much advice!!! Of course!!!! but after some thought I decided that most of my comments could be better said by others, easily found etc.

The thing I would stress the most is that you will NOT have as much time as you think in the check. Especially if your lunch check is a 30 minutes (as opposed to a 60 minute) hold.

By the time you pulse in, vet in, make sure she's eating and drinking, said hi to people, and sucked down a bottle of water your hold will be over. If you have to untack and tack up again, your time will even be tighter.

One thing I did during the LD's I did with Farley was do a 60 minute hold, even if the hold was 30 minutes. 60 minutes is a typical hold for a 50 or 100 mile race, which was my goal, and I was not worried about pulling overtime at a LD. I wanted her to learn to settle and eat and drink during the hold and give her a sinse of how long she had, which was going to be 60 minutes. It really helped Farley learn to relax at the hold. At 30 minutes it seemed like she would just settle....this is confusing but I think you get what I'm saying.

You know your horse best, but I felt this was really helpful for me and Farley.