Crewing for yourself can be easily done and many here in our area do it. You must be prepared. Before you go out first thing in the am have your hay set up your mush mix all in the buckets ready to add water, etectrolytes handy, water poured, everything within easy reach and not digging aroung the back of the truck for it. Cooler out blanket or rump rug hanging out to grab. Have extra bottles already filled with water to switch with the empty ones, etc. so when you come in all you need to do is add water to your mix so forth. Have a system or routine that you follow each ride so it becomes automatic... I learned this after running around like a chicken with it`s head cut off until I met a person who has taken me under her wing, that crewed for the world championship riders and boy have I learned a few things and still am.
I always carry some food, energy bars nuts, etc. Two bottles of drinks for myself as well as bottles for wetting my horse. Of course my emergency kit which includes flashlight, pick, knife, extra slicker, first aid, vet wrap, sunscreen, emergency blanket, tylenol, easy boot, laminated ID with my name, medical conditions, phone and address, should I get seperated from my horse. Forest money is nice to have along. My lipstick (optional) handyman tool device is great! Just to give you an idea.
My husband and I left a vet check not a cloud in the sky and an hour later caught in a hailstorm with icy cold winds...soaked to the skin and never been colder, I now carry all I need and defy nature to rty this again.
3. What methods have crewless riders found to work well?
I`ve been riding without a crew since 1979, (many 50s, five one-day 100s and the Outlaw trail) and for me, it all comes down to ... LISTS and PREPARE AHEAD. The more I do at home, the less I have to do at the ride -- and the less I have to think as DIMR increases.
One important note: in the Southeast it`s rare to actually ride without a crew at all. As soon as people find out you`re crewless, they inundate you with offers to take your stuff to the checks, they fill your buckets, they hand you food, they ask to hold your horse while you visit the PortAPotty or nearby bush, they meet you on the trail ... The Southeast endurance riders are the best! (uh-oh ... flame alert! OK, OK, they`re GREAT.)
I`ve never won a ride and probably never will. Instead, my goal is to ride the best ride that particular horse and I can ride on that particular day given whatever obstacles we`ve had (job and family demands, injury, lame truck, etc, etc.). Sometimes we end up in top 10, but mostly we`re in the middle and occasionally we bring up the rear (someone`s got to do it, right?). But we always have a good time.
I also like to NOT be dependent on someone to bring me something important: You never know when your well-intentioned crew will have a flat or get lost on the way to the check -- and there you are without electrolytes.
Here are some tips that have helped me ride crewless:
* Call ahead -- to find out length of loops, how many checks are out of camp, water and grass availability at checks and on the trail. Since I work Friday nights, I often don`t get to rides until 1 am, so it`s also a chance to let management know that I really do intend to be there...eventually.
* Horse food -- I make up each of the horse`s meals complete with whatever electrolytes and other goodies before leaving home. Each meal goes in a Ziploc bag, labeled SAT AM, SUN AM, etc. All the meal bags go in a Rubbermaid box. A Baggy of grain (with some whole corn) goes in my cantle bag for the away checks along with a couple of carrots.
*People food -- I make up 4-6 sandwiches before leaving (pumpernickel holds up well) and wrap them individually, so I can grab them during a vet check. I use mustard -- no mayo! Yoghurts hit the spot too, and so do lots of bananas. Styrofoam noodle soups that just need boiling water work for breakfast along with the Maxwell House powdered cappucinos. Powerbars and Cliff bars, a Baggy of gorp, maybe some homemade beef jerky (thanks Anne Ayala -- good idea!) or dried fruit goes in the cantle bag as well. A potato microwaved, salted and peppered at home and eaten cold on the trail tastes surprisingly good (thanks, Patty Rickard).
*Horse water -- I carry 40-50 gallons on the truck (thank you, Linda Flemmer: the tank from Northern is perfect), so I don`t have to find water when I get to camp. I fill one of those big plastic tubs in the horse`s corral, which is often enough for the weekend. I fill a spare bucket for sponging by the trailer as well.
*People water -- I carry two water bottles normally. At the Outlaw Ride, I put two extras in the cantle bag. (As it turned out, management takes very good care of both riders and horses: hay, water, carrots, apples, lemonade, munchies are at every stop.)
*Hay -- I have a neon-green 1/2 hay bag (with my name) that I fill at home that goes to the check.
*To the check -- also goes a bucket (labeled with my name), and a Rubbermaid box (with my name) with sponge, spare layer for me, cheap crummy bed blanket that I won`t miss if it disappears, extra filled water bottles, trash bag, maybe a chair, one of those tiny coolers with a couple of sandwiches if it`s an away check, and any spare tack I think I might need at a check (different bit, etc.).
*Electrolytes -- In that trusty cantle bag (Lovell of Mack`s are great -- and yes, all this stuff really does fit in there, plus a camera) I also carry one large syringe and a large-size Advil bottle filled with powdered electrolytes. This is more than enough for 6 doses. At each check, I just put some water in the syringe, add a dose of electrolytes, fill the syringe the rest of the way with water, shake and squirt (thanks, Trish Harrop! Great idea). Sure beats mixing all that applesauce at midnight by flashlight...
*HRM -- I use a heart monitor, but I also carry a stethoscope in case I want to pull the saddle off at a check.
* Brain game -- The hardest part of crewing for yourself, especially on a 100, is staying mentally "up." You don`t have the luxury of collapsing into a chair and letting someone else take over care of your horse. I prepare for this weeks ahead of time by (1) conditioning alone a lot, including 30-40 mile training rides (2) making sure I`m in good shape (I try to run about 3 miles several times a week) (3) carrying a lot of this stuff all the time so the horse and I are both used to how it feels and so that I can find things without looking (4) remembering to monitor and take good care of myself so that I can take good care of the horse -- this means especially remembering to drink before I`m thirsty. I also think about riding crewless a lot while driving to work, before falling asleep, whenever -- I mentally practice being out there on my own, in the dark, in the thunderstorm, so that I`m mentally as well as physically ready for the challenge (I hope).
So ... is it worth it? Yes, Roger`s right. It IS a real high to know that you and your horse were a team, just the two of you relying on each other, for 50 or 100 miles or 200+ miles.
I`m (very slowly -- sorry, mike!) pulling together a FAQ on Riding Without a Crew. Send along your additions, corrections, comments and I`ll add them in.