Sunday, February 15, 2015

Eastern Mojave Scenic XP 2015: Sweet and Sour

Let me tell you a story. It's a winding tale of ups and downs of a horse and rider who have spent the last year and a half ironing out their game, and fortunately it's all mostly already been told. From the first AERC ride together after purchase and back soreness at Gold Country 2013 to the first RO at Chamberlain Creek, to the first 50 completion with back soreness at Derby 2014 and on to the RO at Gold Rush Shuffle 2014 for poor behavior (but no back soreness!). Not featured so prominently in those blogs because I really only care about my horse and have been battling it forever, are my migraine/heat issues that take me down at or after nearly every single ride. Endurance is called what it is for a reason, certainly.

So now we come to Scrappy and I merrily setting off for Eastern Mojave XP, 4 days of riding that I hoped would calm down the race brain exhibited at Gold Rush Shuffle. It was a 12 hour haul and quite interesting to pull into unknown desert ride camp in the dark, alone, and find a spot and pitch my tent, but it was done quite handily if I do say so myself.

driving off from home into sunshine after getting slammed by a storm for days
5 hrs later, halfway there, drink/snack/pee break for all
 When in doubt--ask! 
I knew I'd miss McCoy's Feed hours but calling ahead got me a weed free bale 
left easily retrievable. Nighttime adventures in Barstow! 
There are no photos of me getting briefly lost finding ride camp in the dark, or my nighttime camp set up shenanigans, but here's Wednesday a.m. and Scrappy saying "Holy crap mom, we aren't in Nebraska/Bangor anymore."
view from my tent                                                                                            crew dog Georgia
The wind screamed from Tuesday midnight until late afternoon Wednesday. Going a day early was as great idea as Scrappy didn't properly address any of his hay until Wednesday night. He ate mashes and eagerly grazed on the dead stubble around ride camp and ate the odd mouthful of hand fed alfalfa while drinking like a champ so I wasn't necessarily concerned but I would have been if I'd been trying to start a 50 right off.   As it was we had a fairly relaxing morning despite the wind, nice warm up ride midday Wednesday, vetted in at 5 pm, ride meeting at 7, and he ate and drank alll that 2nd night. Good pony!

a Cashel Quiet Ride mask I bought year+ ago because he hates midges-- but never used
 til now--came in handy when the wind was whipping sand and hay into his eyes
Wednesday pre ride
snoozles time
vet in
ride camp filling up
 Ride morning
Off we go!
all 4 Renegades performed flawlessly all day in rocks and sand of varying depths

 drink the water then bite the bucket to see if he can flip it..every time
some deep sand washes, there was trail up alongside at some points
glad to see people and hay after 25 miles
my helmet seems to be making a bid for freedom, but we're enjoying ourselves
 some quiet post lunch miles where we trotted and cantered along merrily

 glad to have found some buddies for those late afternoon lonely miles
 Sun is setting as we've got a few miles to go
 trotting and cantering freely back into camp, biggest grin on my face
 Wouldn't it be just glorious to end the story there, after 50 miles well ridden and wonderfully performed by the reformed Scrappy? Even at this moment, days later, I'd like to embrace my imagination and say it was so, but it wasn't.  We finished our 50 in a glow of triumph--and he was back sore in the same ole loin area again afterward. And residually sore deeper in that area the next morning.



Also, don't flap your bare arms in Joshua tree country, or try to grab a bite of one on the go, Scrappy would add.
watching riders leave Day 2
 back spa while I packed up
 There were and are many opinions on what the problem is or what I should do about it. I was encouraged to give him a day and try another 50 at Mojave, which made zero sense to me as we had both had a perfect ride together and the result was the result, so how could I go out again just hoping it would be different? I was encouraged to buy this saddle, that pad, use a crupper, try chiro, massage, red light therapy, check for selenium/magnesium deficiencies, and see if it wasn't compensation for a hock problem (note I've already done many of those, but not all). There is much wisdom to be gleaned from those that have gone before in this self same battle, I certainly don't pretend I am the only one going through or gone through it. I don't know what the answer is yet, nor what the future holds for Scrappy in endurance. I merely currently exist in the bitter reality of taking another beloved horse to the vet for a work up to sort out a problem that I've done my very best to never have in the first place, and then fix in every other way I could, all along battling to keep my own self healthy at rides. It's exhausting, demoralizing, expensive, and merely, what it is. We're home now, Scrappy is feeling great, and we will work on his problems, but  neither my eyes nor my heart are currently yearning toward the AERC schedule the way I always have after a ride before, even a hard one. Time will take care of that no doubt, but for now I'll take care of my horses.


  1. So sorry to hear that your trip was cut short but also glad that you guys got at least one good ride out of it.

    1. that's the really sour bit, the good ride counts as nothing to me when it ends in horse pain. That feeling where you think you have things sorted and have done your homework and are reading signs right and then you just aren't--sucks all the joy right out. Ah well, back to the drawing board.

    2. I guess I should have clarified that I was glad that Scrappy behaved himself, considering his behavior at the last ride. If my comment came across as 'glad you made it 50 miles even though your horse is hurt', then that's my fault.

  2. Thinking good thoughts that you find some answers for Scrap.

    It is SO reassuring that I'm not the only one battling migraine/heat issues post-ride on a regular basis. Any suggestions/things that have kinda-helped/things that were totally worthless? I feel like I'm flailing trying to keep me managed, and I'm really hesitant to try a 50 without getting at least some sort of handle on it.

  3. Damn. It sounds like the ride went well, in that surreal landscape, but, well, damn! I'm disappointed/discouraged with you, I love all your adventures. No solutions from me, just sympathy.

  4. Arghhh.....
    What a wonderful ride, it sounds just magnificent!
    And to get back and have your spirits crushed like that after trying EVERY Thing and then some! Hang in there.... it's hard to keep going when you get knocked down again.

    The other thing I wanted to suggest, in case you haven't heard/thought of it (but you probably have!)... I've had some issues with loin soreness in my horses and have found using an osteopath really helpful. However, my horse's osteopath doesn't just turn up and fix my pony. He's shown me stretches to do, and it's part of the deal that I need to do the stretches as maintenance. The stretches are really effective - my horse got a sore back halfway through a big loop in a remote area (very hard to stop as we were a long way from anywhere accessible). But with the stretches and good warming up, her back actually improved (rather than getting sorer) and she finished 5 days without any back soreness at all.

    The osteo also has really high expectations about me working my horse properly (not going around with head in the air). Not sure if you can find an osteopath, but I'd recommend it if you can.

    Best of luck with whatever works for you guys. Hang in there, you'll get there!

  5. Fellow migraine sufferer here... sorry you are struggling with them too. I hope you get some answers from your vet on the loin soreness problem. My mare had that a bit but it was a saddle fit issue- so many variables can make it really hard to pin down the cause of the problem.
    Great pictures and the ride looked like it was a fun day!

  6. Oh lady. I feel for you. You've worked so hard and put in so much time and stuck things through like only the most terrific and most stubborn of redheads can do! I can empathize with how elated you must have felt coming across the finish after 50 miles over such gorgeous terrain. I can empathize again with the disappointment and deflation you must have felt upon discovering the soreness through his back/loin area. ARGH!!!!!

    All the feels. All the feels indeed. =(

    I know you've heard it all, and I know I'm no expert, but I also know that any shred of suggestion can sometimes send the mind a-whirring with ideas, even if you've heard it before. Sometimes (for me at least) it's merely the timing of the suggestion at hand more than the actual suggestion itself that sends me thinking and pondering. You're always good for feedback in my past posts throwing out recommendations for me to take or leave or chew on for awhile...I can only toss the same pondering suggestion out for you...

    I've recently seen frequent mention through various sources about strengthening the loin area through dressage work. Proper carriage and whatnot. I don't have as firm an understanding of dressage as most, but it seems that lots of work with proper carriage and movement will built that loin area up a lot over time.

    So, mayhaps it isn't all the craziness of needing another expert massager or chiro-er or saddle fit-er. Maybe it's just a few tweaks to things you're already doing with him that will better work the muscling through his loin area? More time spent doing hill work (my personal fitness cheat for mine to get them working through the hind end; dressage talks about wanting an "uphill" horse, so I just encourage more literal uphill work to build those muscles so they're stronger for the flat later)? More time working him in a frame be it under saddle or on the lunge? Maybe even with *gasp* a gadget of sorts for a time to help him to learn the motions and begin to build strength and muscle memory?

    I don't know...I don't know.

    I do know that you've got his best interests at heart though. And I really want the answer to be something more simple like slight alteration of conditioning because to me, that kind of thing seems like a far easier resolve than the saddle battle, the supplement battle, or the which-medical-expert-to-use-next battle.

    Feeling for you lady. You've got a lot going for you and so does Scrap! You'll get there. I know you will. Tis the nature of redhead. ;-) Sending you positive vibes. <3

    1. Thank you! I appreciate the support and the thoughts. I certainly have considered his carriage, we did spend most of the summer getting him to bridle up and work on the bit, as for hill work that's nearly all we do, both at the walk and trot. I'm working on my arena and going to put in poles and cavaletti and he'll get worked in there too. Regardless I will take him to the vet and check his hocks and back, if it gets ruled out then GREAT but I have my suspicions.

    2. Oooh, yes, cavaletti and ground poles! Great idea! Fingers crossed for a good report from the vet.