I have another exciting post coming up about a trip I just got back from, but I wanted to insert a shameless plug here first. This is my personal blog, which I don’t really share around. However, I HAVE created a public facebook page documenting my endurance journey, which you can find here. Also I have a personal instagram, and a horse dedicated instagram. (I’m also working on a more public blog for 5 Years to Tevis, but that isn’t quite ready yet.) Anyway, take your pick!

Containment. If you are a member of the AERC facebook page you can’t help but be aware of the recent events at a ride in the western part of the country, wherein a group of horses in an electric pen escaped and tore through ride camp, running through other pens and freeing other horses and causing general chaos. Several horses died. At any rate, I’m not here to diss those who decide to use electric pens. That’s how Justice was contained at rides before I got him. What works for you works for you. However, after hearing of a similar situation several years ago, I decided electric pens are not for me. So far I’ve unceremoniously tied to the trailer at all the events I’ve been to. Eventually I’d like to get a high tie system, but I think I’ll probably wait a few more years until I get another trailer. Fortunately all my horses have been totally cool with standing tied overnight.  There were a few horses that did get loose at BSS and although they were quickly caught, I was very glad I didn’t have to worry about mine (especially as Pearl can be quite skittish and it is doubtful she would let anyone catch her!)

Electrolyting. I studied Saiph’s electrolyting techniques in weeks before the ride and built off that. I preloaded Pearl the week before giving her wet Fiberplus with a scoop of Perform N Win and table salt. I think I ended up cutting back on the salt, giving a full scoop of Perform N Win to half a scoop of salt.

Once we arrived at the ride the Fiberplus she’d previously loved was suddenly deemed uninteresting and Pearl refused to eat it with any elytes mixed in. So I dosed her via syringe all weekend. My formula for that was a scoop of Perform N Win to half a scoop of salt and half a scoop of lite salt, with crushed tums mixed with applesauce.

Guess what? She drank like a CHAMP all weekend long, despite the cold weather. I really couldn’t have been happier.

Feed. This was a fail. She hated the hay we brought from Ashley’s barn (although I doubt she would’ve been much more enthusiastic if I’d brought hay from SStables) and she mostly picked at it all weekend. She ate enough to get by, but not as much as I would’ve liked. And the Fiberplus she’d previously loved was suddenly uninteresting away from home. However she was quite interested in everyone else’s hay and grain lol. I am definitely changing things up and experimenting further at future events. Specifically I am looking into Triple Crown Complete and bagged forage.

Tack. Ehhhhhhh. I rode her in her english bridle with an elevator bit because I didn’t have anything better. Also in the Stubben saddle because it finally fit her and that’s what I had. I am glad I didn’t bring the Wintec I’d previously used on her because it sits VERY downhill. The stubben worked well for us on this ride, but I have since purchased an American Saddlery endurance saddle at a recent local tack sale. The new saddle is a little heavier, but distributes weight much better. I also procured a turquoise halter/bridle and breastcollar set from Two Horse Tack (review to follow). I am continuing to use the elevator bit for now, although I am not convinced she respects it enough in the long run.

What’s next?  I originally planned to pursue the OD Triple Crown, with No Frills on April 22nd being our next ride. However, my boyfriend’s request for that weekend off work was rejected, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I was beginning to feel we weren’t going to be ready for a ride that difficult just yet. Fortunately the opportunity presented itself to attend Foxcatcher instead, and I jumped at the chance. According to all reports Foxcatcher not only has terrain similar to what we already train in, but it also has cell service and is located at picturesque Fair Hill International (which a little bird has informed me will be hosting a new CCI**** (Eventing) competition in 2019).

Goals. I actually hesitated to share this. Because I’m honestly freaking competitive. News flash – my eventual goal (YEARS down the road) is to consistently top ten. That’s it. I don’t want to make FEI or ride in the Mongol Derby or anything like that. I just want to be GOOD at what we do.

Last time, my goal was to finish. That was IT. Nothing else. And WE DID! (I’m still in shock over that by the way).

This time, my goals are similar. Finish – obviously. I am still questioning Pearl’s overall fitness. We have been riding on average twice a week. Only once did we really accomplish my goal of 10(ish) miles at a pace of around 5mph. The rest of our rides have been averaging 7-8 miles, at 4.5 mph. I was greatly concerned when the initial extended forecast on Accuweather showed highs in the 70’s for ride day. However in a classic twist (just like BSS), predicted temps have been steadily dropping. Currently the high on my weather app, is showing 58 degrees and cloudy for the day. Which is PERFECT. Seriously, I couldn’t ask for better. I’m just praying it stays that way!

My second goal is to make better time. At BSS we literally finished with 5 minutes on the clock. Official results list our time as 05:05 (which if you add the 50 min hold equals 5 hrs 55 mins).  At Foxcatcher, I wanna beat that. (I’d also like to beat our last placing but that is unrealistic as this ride has a lot more participants! I’ve counted close to 50 entrants to the LD already!)

Strategy. Let’s get real. Pearl is not a fast horse. It’s not likely she ever will be. I don’t expect that of her. (I’d like it, but I don’t expect it). That being said, I have developed something of a ride strategy, based on our mistakes at BSS.

At BSS I missed the trail being declared open. We started at the back of the pack and continued to fall behind throughout the duration of the ride. Honestly we don’t have the speed or the stamina (yet) to come from behind like some folks do. So, we are going to attempt to start out with the front runners (while at the same time NOT attempting to keep up with them). I say this with some trepidation, as I have heard horror stories about ride starts at Foxcatcher. I don’t doubt that I can control Pearl, but at the same time as she has gotten more fit she has gotten fiestier. I just hope she keeps her head about her and doesn’t get race brain like Justice.

At BSS we went WAAAY too slow during the first loop. We walked when we probably shouldn’t have, and then missed our out time after the hold by nearly 10 minutes, meaning we really had to hustle the second loop when the horses were already tired. My strategy this time around is to book it on the first loop when Pearl is still fresh (if I don’t, based on her behavior during our training rides, she’ll end up expending the energy fighting me anyway). Ideally, I want to average 6+mph on the first loop, and be ready to head out the second our hold is up. I know Foxcatcher has 1 mile warning signs before the vet check so this should definitely be helpful! On the second loop I just want to maintain a steady pace of 5.5mph. If we can do that, I think we’ll be golden.