Monday, April 26, 2004

2004 LBL Express - April

Tanna and I went to do the 25 mile LD ride at LBL Express. Our adventure started on Thursday morning. Normally, I like to get to a ridecamp two days before I am to ride to give Tanna a chance to settle in and get ready for the ride. But since LBL is only 2.5 hours from my house and we were "only" doing a 25 mile ride, the plan was to get to ridecamp around 12 or 1 PM on Thursday and then haul home after the ride on Friday.

Last week, we did a slow (10.5 hour ride time, excluding holds) 55 miler at Chicken Chase. This is the beginning of our second season and the first time I've attempted doing rides on back to back weekends.

After Chicken Chase, I didn't notice any rubs on Tanna and was thrilled, but on Sunday after Chicken Chase, I noticed two places on his loins on either side of his spine where the hair had been rubbed off and there was a very slight bump at each place. I wasn't sure where those came from as he also had grass and dirt stains in close proximity indicating that he had been rolling pretty good. So I wasn't sure if the saddle had caused the rubs or the rolling had caused the rubs. But it was something to keep in mind for LBL.

Thursday morning, it was blowing pretty hard like blowing in a storm. We were late to meet Laura Tichenor and her husband, Dan (not to be confused with MY husband, Daniel), to drive up to LBL together. I rushed out the door and quickly stripped Tanna's blanket off and replaced it with a lighter nylon sheet, slipped the fly mask on and pointed Tanna at the trailer expecting him to jump right on in like normal. Uh, no way. He balked hard. He was being loaded into the right side of the trailer when he was most often trailered on the left in the last few months. The dog was barking, chasing Serts around. The wind was howling. The truck was rumbling and I was rushing my horse that can not be rushed. I took my tapping stick and gave him a sharp rap on the rump. Ok, that was a bad move. He spun around me like a mad horse with the dog at his heels.

I told Daniel to take the dog and both of them to go away. I tossed the tapping stick away and tried to calm down. Tanna did not want to get in the trailer. Finally, I opened the escape door and walked into the trailer ahead of Tanna. He followed me willingly enough and I clambered out the escape door and petted him and called to Daniel to come close the back. That'll teach me to brag on my horse loading nicely. I had just been bragging to Laura how well my horse loads and then this incident. Looks like more lessons with more excitement are in order.

Anyway, we were finally on our way and we drove to the truck stop where we were to meet Laura and Dan. They were gassing up when we got there and I hopped out and gassed up our truck. Then we bought some bottled water and we all headed out for the highway.

After an uneventful couple of hours of traveling, we pulled off at the exit to head to LBL. There was a Cracker Barrel there and we went there for lunch. Laura and I chattered so much I don't even remember much of the food that I ate! Dan even ran into somebody he used to work with. How weird is that?

Back on the road, we headed on the last leg to LBL. Immediately before entering LBL lands, there is a bridge one has to cross. A very narrow bridge. And it was raining pretty good. And to make it worse, there were huge dump trucks coming the opposite direction. One right after the other. I was just positive we were going to be forced off the bridge or they would scrape all down our rig. There were only 3 dump trucks, but it was quite scary to me.

Shortly after that we started seeing markers to the camp, so we followed the road in. We pulled up to the gate house at LBL and got 2 campsites next to each other. A bathhouse was on the other side of Laura and Dan's campsite and there was a water hydrant on the other side of our campsite (across the road). Very nice, we enthused! After camping in a pasture the week before, we thought we were in paradise! :-) (But we LOVE Bill Wilson's place and are quite happy to camp in his pasture/hay field!!)

We quickly unloaded the horses and set them up on the high lines. Every campsite (that we saw) at LBL has picket line posts. Each campsite had ample room and was very nice. There are even barns with nice airy stalls, but we decided to keep our horses with us and not stall them, although it's a nice thing to have and to remember for training trips.

Laura and I gathered our paperwork and headed for sign in while Dan and Daniel took their bikes for a spin. We signed in and each got a water bottle for the "thanks for coming" gift. Also, in our ride packets we got some horse cookies and maps for our ride the next day.

After sign-in, we stepped over to visit with Teddy Lancaster from Running Bear and Laura bought a couple of knot eliminators (that we never got around to using).

Then we got our horses and took them to weigh in and have a look see around the camp. Tanna weighed in at 770. Which I thought was excellent. He was only 8 pounds lighter than he had been pre-ride at Chicken Chase. He left Chicken Chase at 750, so he had gained 20 pounds in the 6 days between the rides.

Then came the vet in. Tanna vetted in with all As. I pointed out the spots on his back, but Otis checked them out and said they weren't a problem, which is also what I thought, but I did want to point it out.

Next we decided to play with Tanna and saddles. I'm thinking of changing my saddle in a year or so, so I think it's time to start looking at saddles and deciding what I might want to purchase. Laura helped me try out a couple of her saddles. I discovered Tanna has a wider back than I thought.

Also, I got to ride Diamond (Laura's horse) for the first time to try out his saddle. He is a very nice horse! Laura had me get him to go soft and to do some side-stepping. He is a very responsive horse and it was exciting to feel him soften in my hands and round his frame. He wouldn't do it for me at a trot (although he does it for Laura), but he did it for me at a walk. Very nice. Makes me want to take some basic dressage lessons to see if I can get Tanna to do that.

Then came supper and the ride meeting. The meeting was long. Seemed like the 50 milers had a lot of stuff to remember! Our stuff was pretty easy. 2 loops. The first loop was 11 miles, the second 14. Vet check and hold in camp. Hold of 40 minutes. Pulse at the vet check was 64, pulse for the finish was 60. Start for the 50/2-day 100/1-day 100 milers at 6:30, start for us at 7 AM. The rest of the meeting was just your basic stuff like don't race, be careful of the trail riders we'd encounter, awards and meal would be Saturday evening, etc.

Before the ride meeting, I got to see Carla Lawson! I hadn't seen her for quite some time. Back in 1999 we both went to Longstreet's Charge to do our first LD ride. I had seen her last year when I went up to pick up a kitty she'd rescued that she couldn't keep, but I had no idea she'd be at LBL. She was there to crew for her friends, Lisa and Penny. It was particularly weird because just that afternoon, I had been telling Laura that I hadn't seen Carla in forever.

After the ride meeting, I got to see Susan Reid. I had met Susan when she came up to test ride (and buy) a mare that my barn owner was selling. I took Susan on the test ride so she could try out May. It was cool to see her! She was going to ride on Saturday and help out on Friday. She didn't bring May, but brought her other horse to ride. I introduced her to Laura and we all chatted for awhile

before I insisted I had to find an outhouse. Back at the trailer, I fed Tanna again and made sure everything was laid out for the morning. I climbed into bed and set my alarm for 1 AM to get up and feed Tanna. At 1, I dutifully crawled out of bed and went to feed Tanna. The wind was a smidge chilly, so I put his light nylon sheet on him and went back to bed.

About an hour later, the skies opened up and pelted the camp with hard rain and possibly hail. It continued with wave after wave. Thunder, lightning and that hard, heavy rain. I kept waiting for it to quit, but it just kept on. I figured Tanna was ok because he had that sheet on, but I'd forgotten that it wasn't waterproof!

Finally at a quarter to 5, I decided to go take a shower. I figured I wouldn't have much competition for the showers at that time in the morning. As I went outside, I decided to check on Tanna first. Poor thing was wet through and shivering. I threw my shower stuff in the dressing room of my trailer. I stripped the wet sheet off and replaced it with Tanna's nice waterproof, lined blanket. Then I walked him around for 15 minutes in the rain to get his blood flowing and generate some warmth. The whole time berating myself for forgetting the sheet wasn't waterproof. Diamond was tied to Laura's trailer nice and cozy in his waterproof sheet and called to us as we walked around.

I put Tanna back on his picket line and continued on to take a shower. The shower was heavenly! Warm water and a nice spray and an area to put my stuff where it wouldn't get wet and to get dressed. Very nice indeed! And like I figured, no competition for the showers at that time in the morning!

On the way back to my trailer, I banged on Laura's tack room door to wake them up. It was 5:15 and we had an hour and 45 minutes to get ready, if we were going to even go with the rain. They called for me to come in and I climbed in and dripped on their floor while we discussed. Finally I said I would try to find out the weather forecast and went to call my dad in SC. I had him get on the internet and check the radar. He said it would probably rain more, but that the bad stuff was probably behind us. So I reported back to Laura. Dan had his laptop out and connected to the internet via his cell phone and was also looking at the weather. After me giving him the wrong zip code at first, we got a look at the radar. Just what my dad had said. So after a few more minutes of discussion, we decided we were going to ride anyway. At that point, we had an hour before start.

So I rushed back to my trailer and spent a soggy 50 minutes saddling and shoving a bit of food down my mouth, entirely envious of Laura and Diamond, getting ready in her slant load trailer out of the rain. I was thankful that Tanna was dry and warm under his blanket. Well, at least he was dry until I stripped it off to saddle. The rain finally stopped before I was done.

Laura and I mounted up and headed off to the start line. There were lots of 50 milers around. Their start had been pushed back to 7 and we were to leave at 7:30. Now we had plenty of time! Dan and Daniel showed up a few minutes later and we hung out by the concrete water trough and let the horses play with the water. Tanna drank just a few sips, but enjoyed sticking his nose in the water and making lots of splashes.

At 7:15 we remounted and walked around. I kept an eye out for Kara and her gelding. We were supposed to ride with them to try to help keep her gelding calm for the start. I didn't see her anywhere. At 7:30, Nancy (timer extraordinaire) declared the trail open for 25 milers. Laura and I hung back and let the pack go for a few minutes, then followed along with the stragglers. I still didn't see Kara. Maybe she had decided the weather was just too miserable like we almost had.

Our first obstacle was quite scary to me. The small trickle to cross to get to the trails had been transformed into a raging creek. Tanna plunged right in behind Diamond. I focused on the other side of the creek (per Laura's instructions) and just tried to keep Tanna headed in the right direction. For a scary moment, we were being swept along with the water and then Tanna got his feet grounded again and we made it across. Then I noticed the photographer. Great. I can't wait to see my panicked face in THAT picture.

Then we got to the road and Laura and I pulled up for a minute to let even more riders pass us. We thanked the forestry personnel that were present keeping the traffic stopped (there was no traffic that I saw) for the start.

Finally we hit the trails. Tanna was pulling quite fiercely to be allowed to catch the riders in front of us. I refused, but was glad to have my pulling partner back. I had been worried about him becoming too mellow, but he was his own self and I was thrilled, even though my arm and back muscles were definitely getting a workout!

We trotted up the small hills and walked down them. To say there was water on the trail is an understatement. To say there was mud on the trail was quite accurate. To say the trails were sloppy is quite accurate as well. However, it really wasn't all that bad. There is a trail here in Nashville that will turn to 18 inches of mud with less water than was dumped on LBL. That is a gross and nasty trail. Here the mud was nowhere near that deep. There was a LOT of standing water on the trail, though. Certainly no shortage of drinking water, though. :-) Of course, neither one of our horses were interested in drinking.

The worst part of trail was a quarter mile stretch that was completely covered in deep, flowing water and we had to traverse that section twice (once each loop) going against the current.

After a couple miles, Kara caught up with us. Guess she had started after all. She passed on and we only saw her briefly at the vet check.

We came into the timers almost 2 hours after the start. In 5 minutes, we had our pulse time. As soon as we got up to the pulse takers, Tanna stretched out and peed. The pulse taker took the pulse while he was peeing. Didn't disturb him in the least. Hehee. Tanna vetted through with a B on Jugular Refill and As elsewhere. We hadn't stripped his tack since it was rider option and I didn't want to bother removing the saddle for a 40 minute hold. Daniel trotted him out and he looked good to me. It's really nice to be able to watch him move when I usually just feel him. No CRI this time. I rather like CRIs and was disappointed that the vets were only doing CRIs when they felt it was warranted and not across the board. I might should have asked for a CRI though. I didn't think about that.

After Diamond and Tanna were vetted in, Dan suggested we head back to the trailers for our hold rather than stay at the vet check area as we'd intended. So we gathered up our stuff and went back to the trailers. Tanna was being prissy and didn't want to eat. I fed him by hand, changing the offering when he balked at eating what I offered. He ate 2 handfuls of grass hay, several handfuls of alfalfa hay, a few bites of beet pulp/sweet feed, and one bite of apple. The only thing I didn't try, that I will next time, is dry beet pulp and/or dry sweet feed. Maybe he was just sick of everything being wet. I knew I was. I ate much better as Daniel fed me a sandwich while I was trying to hand feed Tanna. :-) :-)

It had started raining during our hold. Ugh. I had been hoping to dump my jacket, but at least it started raining before we left the hold and I was without my jacket! Laura had mounted and was heading toward us with a bright orange poncho. I told her to stay over at her trailer while I was mounting. Last thing I wanted was for Tanna to freak out while I was trying to mount. I quickly mounted and rode over to her trailer. Tanna looked at the poncho but didn't seem concerned. Good boy. So we headed toward the timers. Almost there I realized I had left my vet card at our campsite. Sigh. Laura waited there while I headed back to the trailer to get my vet card. As a result of my forgetfulness, we left 10 minutes late from that hold.

That second loop was miserable. A lot of the trail was part of the first loop, including the 1/4 mile stretch of river we had to walk up. After 30 minutes, I was soaked from head to toe despite my jacket. I was thankful for the jacket, though, as it probably kept me from being too cold. I was glad for the rump rug I'd left on Tanna. Tanna was still good to go and he would ask to catch up to any rider he saw in front of us. We only saw a couple riders though. We passed one and another passed us. No trail riders at all. Hmmm, wonder why THAT was!

The only problem Diamond and Tanna have riding together is that Diamond is bigger and has a longer stride than Tanna. So when Diamond is walking (if he's not dragging his feet, which he wasn't), Tanna has to do a slow trot to keep up. It's not really a big deal until I really want Tanna to walk, like to let his heart rate recover or to walk down some of those slippery slopes. Then Tanna got mad because Diamond was ahead of him and I wouldn't let him trot to catch up. So we had some discussions there. Tanna also cantered more than Diamond as Diamond can do a bigger trot without extending. When Tanna gets to his huge 11 mph trot, I nudge him up into a canter. But Tanna and I train the canter so we weren't doing anything we don't do in training.

It was really funny to hear their heart rates, though. They were almost always within a couple of beats of each other. It was like they were sharing the same heart. Would have been interesting to see their CRIs. There was no way we were picking up each other's HRM either. We were sufficiently far enough away from each other that that wouldn't have been an issue at all.

It took us 2 hours 15 minutes to do that second loop (2 hours 25 minutes since our out time). Shortly before we finished, it stopped raining and the sun came out and it was pretty. We walked in the last little bit. I was letting Tanna grab grass while Laura was trying to see if Diamond wanted to pee. As we got closer to the vet check area, I spotted my truck and trailer in the parking lot! Soon we saw Laura's truck and trailer on the other side of mine. Guess the guys took it to heart when we said we wanted to leave after the ride and to pack up while we were on our last loop.

We took the horses to the water trough and both horses finally drank long drinks of water. Probably a gallon or so each. Just sucked it down. Tanna was at 52 for his heart rate, so I headed for my trailer and Daniel took Tanna while I loosened the girth while walking. At the trailer, we stripped him and threw his cooler over him. Straight to the pulse takers where Tanna again stretched out to pee. Guess that was a good pee spot! Susan K took his pulse and called for time. 12:39. Ride time of 4 hours 29 minutes. Good for 32nd place. :-) Nice back of the pack pace. There were 8 other horses they were waiting on for the 25 milers.

Took Tanna to the vet and Otis pronounced him finished and gave him all As on his vet card. First ride that Tanna has had As on his guts at all the checks!! I thanked Otis for standing in the rain and mud to vet us all.

We weighed Tanna. He lost 30 pounds! Sheesh. Lots, but he seemed A-ok. Daniel took Tanna over to the wash rack while I recorded the weight loss on the clipboard and my vet card. Some nice gentleman was holding Tanna while Daniel sprayed him down. Tanna apparently hadn't liked the idea of cold water on him and had been giving Daniel a hard time. Goofy boy, we just wanted to get the caked-on mud off him!

Then back to the trailer where he got his blanket on and he began to eat his beet pulp he'd ignored at the vet check.

With Tanna taken care of, I finally went into the camper and changed into dry clothes. I was mostly dry (except for my hair and my feet) for the first time since 5 AM. Felt great, even though I had to wear my wet tennis shoes since I didn't have any other shoes with me.

Laura and I hunted up the ride manager, Diane Fruth, and asked for our completion awards since we were gonna head home. While she was off retrieving our t-shirts, Laura remembered that she hadn't weighed Diamond after the ride. So I stood around under the vet canopy eating the food there (I wasn't going to eat my ride meal, so I wasn't shy about eating a couple of oreos from the table), watching other horses vet through and generally just feeling good about being where I was. Diane returned with our shirts and I took them both and thanked her for the ride.

After a brief pause at the gate house to tell them we were out of our campsites, we were on our way. Daniel was driving this time and I was babbling on about the ride and Tanna and the changes I wanted to make. We were home in short order and I turned Tanna loose with his pasture buddy and they went galloping, bucking and trotting around their field for the next 30 minutes. Goodness. Too bad I wore him out on that ride!

I feel quite proud of Tanna. Even though we hardly ever ride in the rain, he did great and never balked at where I wanted him to go. He carried himself very well and handled the slop like it was dry. Amazing what my little guy can do. I love him to death and he is now going to get a very well earned 3 week rest. Then it's back in training for Hoosier Daddy at the end of June.

I have some changes I'm going to make. First and foremost, I'm going to quit using my Dixie Midnight pad for rides longer than 15 miles or so. He got some more rubs on his loins at LBL and Daniel and I are suspecting the DM pad is contributing to that as we didn't have that problem at Liberty Run (50) or BSF (25) last year which was before we got the DM pad. So I'm going to use the DM pad for shorter training rides to keep me from having to wash my woolback pads as often, but we'll try using just the wool pad for Hoosier Daddy and my 25 mile training rides to see if the rubbing disappears.

Second, I'm going to quit girthing him up so tight. That also contributed to some light rubbing around the girth area above the girth itself. (which also might be contributed to by the DM pad)

Third, he is going into crupper training as soon as he comes back into training with the goal to ride Hoosier Daddy (a reportedly flat ride) with it to prepare him for more hilly rides with it. Having the crupper and the breast collar (which he is already used to) should help me be able to keep his girth a little looser and still keep the saddle in place.

I had a lot of fun these last 2 weekends and I am looking forward to Hoosier Daddy in a couple months. Thanks to Diane and Jerry Fruth for putting on LBL this year and for it being a 2 DAY RIDE! :-) I had a great time despite the rain, the campsite would be hard to beat, the volunteers cheerful and bright despite the rain, and the trails were well marked. Every time we had a question of which way to go, there was a pie plate with an X on it to tell us NOT to go there. Thanks to the volunteers and LBL AND the ride managers for a great ride!

Nashville, TN

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