Friday, May 22, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Trucking Edition, Part XVIII

I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.

So as I've described before, we often have loads that pick up on the weekends, when we're not here.  We pre-weigh them using a smaller "yard goat" we have to tow the trailers around, and leave a buffer, knowing that the real tractors weigh quite a bit more (plus shift the weight of the trailers themselves, as they're usually taller).  We stick the bill of lading (which includes the net weight of the product itself) into the back of the trailer, e-mail the trucking company with the trailer number so they can let the driver know which one to pick up, and it generally goes smoothly.

Well, Monday morning, we heard that one of the trailers that was picked up over the weekend was coming back because it was over weight.  There is a truck scale about 70 miles south that he could have gotten weighed on, and we had left "only" 500 pounds buffer, which apparently can sometimes be not enough (the boss was out of the office, so I was winging it and figured 500 pounds would be enough).

Sure enough, he appeared not long after we opened (at least THAT was efficient!) and we had him go over our scale to see what we weighed him at with his tractor.  The one axle that had been closest to the limit was actually LESS than what it had weighed with our equipment, and all of them were within the legal limit!  So we asked for the scale ticket from the weigh station he'd weighed at down south.  He didn't have one.

Apparently, he'd taken it upon himself to ASSUME from the net weight of the product that he'd be over the weight.  Without actually checking it.  So he'd waited around for us to open on Monday morning, holding up the load that is supposed to deliver in southern California on Tuesday morning.  What do you want to bet he's not going to deliver it on time, solely due to his own mistake (trying to think, when we actually do know what we're doing).

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Part XVIII

I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.

A walk-in customer comes in and asks to buy one of our products that we sell by the pallet.  Sure, how many pallets would you like?  "Two or three."  . . .  Um, great.  Would you like two, or would you like three?  That will affect how I write up the invoice and how much you have to pay.  I suggested he pay for two now, and let us know later if he'd like the third.  Mumble mumble, something to the effect of "okay," plus he handed me cash in the amount that two pallets cost.

So I write up the invoice, write that he paid cash, and have him sign it.  He mumbles something about what our hours are for loading in case he comes back some other time.  I tell him we're here to load him up until 4:00, and he says "So maybe I should come in by 3:30, then?"  I agree that that would be wise, and we finish the transaction.

I radio back to the guys in the back that he wants two pallets, and they start loading up the forklift to bring it around.  The customer goes out to his truck and . . . drives away.  Not just to turn his truck around and head toward the loading area, no.  He drives off the lot and down the street.  Apparently he wasn't just talking about coming back some other time for the third pallet he was still deciding to purchase, he actually wanted to pay now but pick up later?  Weird.  And he didn't make that at ALL clear, not that any of his communication was clear.  Oh well, we've got his money so I guess even if he never comes back, we're fine.  :-)

[Update/spoiler--he did come back later.  It was just weird that he wasn't clear that that was his plan]

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Saddle Fit

When I bought Arya, her previous owner warned me that finding a saddle to fit her would be a pain in the butt.  So I got started looking right away.  I found a Western saddle that had fit a draft horse on Craigslist, and even better, the seller was willing to take it back if it didn't fit.  It didn't fit at all without a pad, but with a pad that was thicker in the front and had a cutout for her withers, it actually seemed to work.  I kept that saddle for riding in the meantime, returned the saddle I'd been borrowing from Arya's former owner, but kept looking for a lighter weight saddle that would be better for longer distance riding.

I tried a few saddles.  One I bought outright but luckily was able to sell on to the next person, one I was able to get on trial (had to pay shipping both ways, though, which wasn't cheap).  Tried a couple saddles of Shar's on her, but her horses are so skinny that it wasn't very helpful.  I hired a saddle fitter from afar, who shipped me saddle trees and had me take pictures and measurements of my horse.  I finally got to meet up with her in person, and she told me that at least my western saddle wasn't causing her too much pain, though of course it wasn't the ideal fit for her.

Finally, I saw a saddle online that intrigued me.  It was an SR brand--those saddles are made right here locally, and while the build of the tree limits the pool of horses it can truly fit, the padding can be adjusted to some extent by the saddle maker to fit a bit of a variety of horses within that pool.  I inquired about it, sent the serial number to the saddle maker and he was able to tell me some information about it, etc.  But within a day or two, the seller said she'd sent it out on trial, so if it sold to that person, I'd be out of luck.

But then ANOTHER saddle of the same brand came up online, and actually seemed like it'd be a better fit for Arya, plus it was $500 cheaper.  It was older, but looked to be in great shape.  It was black, which would be my preferred color, not that I can afford to be picky.  The down side was it was in Texas and being sold as "all sales final," no returns if it didn't work out (or wasn't as advertised, but at least with buying through Facebook, you have the person's name and some information about them, and they're kind of in your "network" of horse-related groups.  Not quite as much of a stranger as buying off Craigslist.

It was a risk, but at least being in the same town as the maker, I knew I'd probably have an easier time of selling it on if it didn't work out than I would with a different brand.  I went ahead and bought the saddle and had it shipped to me.

When it arrived, I excitedly put it onto Arya, and Shar and I evaluated whether it seemed to fit her.  It really did.  It fit her like a glove.  Well, at least in our opinion, but we'd been wrong about these things before.  Shar was trailering to the trainer's place a few days later, so she was nice enough to haul my horse and my saddle along, and Celena evaluated the fit and gave it the thumbs up.  Woo hoo!

When I first sat in the saddle, though, the stirrups were way too short.  On their longest setting, I still felt like a jumper (as in the people who ride horses over jumps, not the article of clothing, either British or American).  So I contacted the saddle maker, who was more than happy to use the measurements and saddle number I provided to make a set of new fenders for the saddle that fit my legs and matched the saddle.  Woo hoo!

Of course, it took him a few weeks to get the fenders made, so in the meantime I kept riding in the western saddle, looking longingly at the new SR saddle in the tack room (well, it spent a lot of time in my trunk, too).  Finally, Steve called and said he was done with my fenders.  I visited his IMPECCABLE shop, got to chat with him a little while he worked, and he installed the new fenders.  I was SO excited!

Oh, at one point Shar joked that maybe I'd get there and the new fenders would be ORANGE.  (One of the saddles I'd tried had been a VERY orange shade of brown, which I hated, but of course I would have bought it if it fit Arya.)  I said I was sure that Steve would know by the saddle number which color to make the fenders, though I'd never explicitly told him what color to make them.  Well, sure enough, when I got there, the fenders were an orange-ish shade of brown.  But only on the back side (next to the horse).  The visible part was suitably black, darker than the saddle, even, because of the wear it showed.

Anyway, got the saddle on Thursday night, and went riding with Shar on Friday night.  Put the pad on, saddle on, had to use a western cinch and cheapie billet and latigo on loan from Shar until I get a better cinch/girth setup (the one that came with the saddle is too short for my large and slightly chubby girl), switched the pommel pack over from the western to the SR, switched the fleece seat cover over from the western to the SR, put the bridle on, and after much anticipation, mounted up.

OUCH.  My hips were in immediate pain.  Shar helped me with adjusting the stirrups, since they still seemed a bit short.  We went down to the lowest hole (though the fenders themselves are mounted on the saddle with some adjustability both forward/back and up/down, and had one more notch lower they could go).  They still hurt.  Ugh.  Well, maybe they were just tight from not riding a lot lately, so I figured we should go ahead and ride and maybe my hips would loosen up.

We started out with a good long walk, since this was only Flash's second ride back from his recovery (and the first one had been pretty short).  My hips still hurt.  We picked up a trot, and the saddle felt SO good.  I felt more balanced than usual, and posting more off my thighs rather than my feet.  Back to a walk, and the pain was back.  We trotted again, and I tried a two-point (standing in the stirrups).  I have crappy balance, so I was still tipping forward and back a bit, but much less than when I attempt it in the western saddle.

We continued on, but Flash took a bit of a misstep that was just what happened that alerted Shar to his problem in the first place (bad hoof angles, and he's now under the care of a corrective shoer), so we declared the rest of the ride a walk-only ride, which of course meant more discomfort for me.  :-(

As we went along, my hips got more and more sore.  Shar asked if I wanted to try riding without stirrups.  OUCH!  That made it worse, as it felt like it was pulling my femurs down and out of my hip sockets.  I could barely get my feet back into the stirrups at that point, and once I did, I couldn't really squeeze her with my legs to urge her any faster.

I genuinely started to wonder whether I'd even be able to climb down off of her--first I'd have to stand up in the stirrups enough to heave one leg over to the other side, then hop down and hopefully land safely on the ground.  When we finally got home and I attempted to dismount, I spent some time laying on my belly across the saddle and wiggling my legs before I hopped down to the ground.  I did manage to land safely.  Woo!  But now I was worried that the saddle I'd finally found to fit Arya wasn't going to fit ME.  Oh dear.

I took the saddle home over the weekend and moved the fenders forward a position as well as lowering them so I'd have a better range of options for adjusting them down by the stirrups.

Yesterday, I went to Shar's house, pulled Arya out, and tacked her all up, including the newly adjusted stirrups.  I got on.  My hips STILL hurt.  Ugh.  I pulled the fleece seat cover off, and the pommel pack, and moved the saddle a bit further forward (the further back it is, the wider her body is in that spot).  Got back on.  Better, but still a bit painful, and now it felt like the stirrups were too long and too far forward.  Aargh!

I took the saddle back off, adjusted the stirrups back to the middle spot (forward/back) but left them on the longer setting.  I raised the stirrups a couple notches using the normal buckle, though.  Got on (still without seat cover or pommel pack) and WOW.  Finally felt comfortable again.  So I may have to get used to slightly shorter stirrups for a bit, and re-try longer stirrups little by little, but it seems that must have been the only issue.  Well, it's possible the seat cover adds a little extra width that my hips don't like.  I hope not, as it'll be great sweat absorption in the summer, insulation in the winter, and chafe protection year round.  I put it back on, but was tired of getting on and off and needed to get back home.  So if my hips hurt on the next ride (same stirrup settings, but with fleece added back on), I'll have to take the cover off and stuff it in my saddle bags or something.  But if not, then WOO HOO!  Finally back in business with a saddle that works.

Here's the saddle without the seat cover or pommel pack:

And then with the seat cover and packs, as I'll normally be riding in it (I hope!):

Clearly Arya was very upset and agitated by all the hubbub.  ;-)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Trucking Edition, Part XVII

I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.

Apparently trucking companies save a lot of money on gas by having a network of electrical wires connecting each truck to their corporate headquarters.

We got a call from our customer (whose truck was supposed to arrive at 8:00 a.m.) at around 10:30 that the truck hadn't arrived yet.  Our sales guy called the trucking company, and they said, "Oh yeah, sorry about that.  Our power went out."  . . .  Um, so?  Trucks stop moving when the power goes out?  Apparently so.

They told us they'd deliver at 1:00, so we passed the message along to the customer.

1:00 came and went, and the customer still hadn't heard anything.  But then he got three calls from the truck driver and three calls from the dispatcher in a short amount of time, while he was trying to get other stuff done.  They didn't know how to get to his place.  Now, we put the address on the bill of lading, and there is such a thing as Google.

So now our customer is not only annoyed that the shipment is late, but also that he's being interrupted so much, and he STILL doesn't know when the load will arrive.  Eventually, he gave up and called us and said he needed to send his employees home for the day, so asked us to tell the trucking company not to deliver until tomorrow.  Of course, they'll probably try to charge us some kind of fee for this "inconvenience" but we'll dispute it because of course none of it would have happened if they'd delivered as originally scheduled...we'll see.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Part XVII

I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.

Remember the employee from Part XII?  Whose spouse calls all the time, apparently to verify the employee's whereabouts?

Well, today is a day the employees who package the goods and load the trailers got off, rather unexpectedly.  They got all caught up yesterday, loading what they could, and we don't have any orders leaving today, so they were told not to come in today.

Then this morning, we find out we actually DO have a load leaving today.  (That's a story for another post, though it's not a long story, so I guess I'll just put it here:  when we get an order from a customer, we have to find a trucking company that can pick up a trailer from us on the appropriate day.  We send out an e-mail to request this, and if they can do it, they confirm, and if they can't, we move on to another company and try again until we're successful.  We requested a load yesterday, and got no response, then this morning a truck pulls in.  We STILL have no confirmation e-mail.  So we're having to scramble.)

Anyway.  So we start calling in employees, including the one from that other post.  About 10 minutes later, we get a call from the spouse, asking if the employee really is supposed to come in.  So what we suspect is employee told spouse "hey, I gotta go in to work after all," and spouse thought that was an excuse to go meet with a lover or something.  But don't involve US in your jealousy.  Check the employee's phone and verify the number, if you must, but don't actually CALL us and waste our time and undermine the employee to the employer.  Ugh.

Oh!  Employee just came in and mentioned seeing the spouse's car pulling out of the parking lot.  Apparently spying.  Wow.

* * * * * *

The day after I wrote the above, and the spouse called again today, plus apparently drove through the parking lot to check on the employee.  Wow, wow, wow.  Insecure much?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Trucking Edition, Part XVI

I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.

There's a trucking company we used to use, but don't use any more.  (A different one than the one mentioned earlier--seriously guys, trucking companies SUCK.)  They screwed up one too many loads, plus they cost too much.

However, we're apparently on their sales list, as we get calls from them 4-8 times a week.  Lately, a co-worker who is nearing retirement (we're talking weeks) has been getting more vocal with sales calls.  Not TOTALLY rude, but not taking any flak from them, either.  Basically calling them on their tactics.

This particular company called the other day, and he asked them why they were calling us for business when we were already a customer of theirs.  They kind of stammered and hung up.

An hour or two later, the owner of the company had an e-mail in his inbox that said:

You're not an active customer.  Active customers actively run loads.  That's why you're getting called so much.  Thought you might want to know.  Thanks for the time.

Well, this e-mail really makes me want to go out and request them to ship our very next load!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Solo Ride - Llamas and Canyons

Shar's just about to bring Flash back into work, but our work schedules don't mesh very well, so if I'm gonna ride, I'm gonna ride solo.  I was planning to ride Wednesday, but neglected to check the forecast, and wind and hail made me change my mind.  :-)  So I postponed to Friday, when I have an extra hour of daylight anyway, due to getting off work at 4 instead of 5.

Shar was going to be at work, so I created a map as a reference to my mom and sister so they could be my safety net for riding solo.  They're far away, but if I fell off and bonked my head and quit texting them, or broke my leg and texted them that I needed help, they could at least call the authorities or something.  Better than no one knowing where I am.  The downside is I have to decide ahead of time what my route will be and stick to it, without deviating.  Though tonight's route included a section of "explore toward the west for some amount of time," but at least they'd have a general vicinity to send out the search party.  :-)

Anyway, I arrived, fetched Arya (she only walked about 10 feet away before letting me catch her--she's getting better about it, maybe due to all the times lately I've pulled her out and not made her work), tacked her up, cranked up some music on my phone (out loud), texted my mom and sister and Shar that I was leaving, and started the Endomondo tracker.  We were off!

Arya did make my life a little difficult as we passed her pasture and continued down the road, but not quite as bad as last time.  We picked up a trot after turning the corner, and stuck to a trot for a good portion of the ride.  It just wasn't a very FAST trot.  I'd urge her faster, and she'd speed up for a second, then slow back to a walk.  I'd ask her to trot, and she would, slowly.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  Definitely something we need to work on.  Ugh.

When we got to the first section of singletrack, we trotted for the first little bit, then Arya went sideways FAST when she saw a grocery sack in a tree branch.  I lost my balance a bit, but quickly got it back because she stopped moving and stared at it.  I let her look, made her move a bit, let her look, etc., and we made it past the bag.  I was worried that the spookiness would bode poorly for the llamas we were about to encounter, but between having already ridden past them solo a couple weeks earlier, and the fact that they stayed back from the fence, she barely noticed them.  Her ear went that direction, and she was clearly watching for any scary movement from them, but we plodded right past them without any antics.

We picked up a trot once we were past the llamas, and even maintained it as a car passed us.  We were far enough from home that she was finally clopping along a little faster, too.  Woo!  We turned the corner, then took a different trail than we had the prior time--there's a trail that parallels someone's property, but off to the side.  At first, I was worried I wasn't allowed to ride there, because there was a sign that said it was private property, but it just said hikers and horses only, stick to the trail, etc.  So we set off.  She balked a little at a couple silver logs, and didn't want to trot because it was kind of rocky (even where the rocks were off to the side of the trail, not actually IN it, but you know that rocks are evil monsters, so she had to be very cautious.  I gave up on the idea of maintaining a trot on that trail, and we just explored.  There was a branch in the trail, and I stayed left.  Shortly after that, the trail broke out at the edge of a canyon, with gorgeous views:

The trail followed along the edge of the canyon.  It would have been a really nice spot to ride, if I wasn't so worried about Arya going off the cliff (or rubbing me off on a tree) because of the white chalky rocks.  Whoa...a different COLOR!  They must be POISON!  Heh.  Plus I didn't want to end up being out past dark or anything, not that it was even close to that point.  But anyway, I decided to turn around.  Arya walked a little peppier after turning around, but still wasn't interested in trotting through the rocks.

THEN, horror of horrors, we hit the worst part of the trail yet (to her).  There was a pasture to our right, with a horse and a pony in it!  !!!!  Then we were at a rocky patch of trail, where it was basically like steps, downhill.  !!!!  Then there was a random structure off to our left, like a treehouse or something.  !!!!  Arya stopped dead, unsure whether to head toward the safety of other horses, away from the threat of strange horses, off the trail (and into a tree) instead of clambering down the rocks, but if so, then which way--away from the scary structure?  But then that would be toward the other horses...  Her little brain was churning about what was the path of least resistance.  I made the decision for her--FORWARD, and ON the trail.  It took a few times of "un-sticking" her, but we finally started walking at a normal pace again.  Sheesh.

Once we got back on the road, she was very eager to continue home on a route she remembered from a couple weeks ago (plus many rides with Flash).  So we worked on our halt and stand still skills for a few minutes, plus I texted an update.  THEN we headed home.  The road inclines slightly for a quarter mile or so, then has a steeper uphill portion for a little bit.  When we got to the steeper section, I encouraged her faster and faster, to see if she would canter, but she just trotted faster until she wore out (uphill and all), and slowed a bit.  I kept her trotting till we got to the top, and she was huffing and puffing pretty good.  So we turned around and went back down the hill to try it again, though a little slower this time.  Didn't even try to canter, just a nice steady trot.

We continued on, trotting nearly the whole way for the next mile or two.  She didn't even slow down when we got to the part that had been watered or oiled or whatever.  Good girl!  She learned last time that it wouldn't hurt her, I guess.  :-)

Here's a picture from around that point.  I was trying to take a picture while trotting that included her brand.  Yeah, didn't work so well--the camera focused on the road instead of her, but oh well.  I still like it.

We took a shortcut rather than taking a loop I'm not a fan of (and neither is Arya--it's either riding on asphalt or soft gravel punctuated by concrete driveways), and headed home.  Of course Arya was in a BIG hurry by this point, so I kept checking in with her, making sure we had brakes.  :-)  Sometimes we'd just slow to a walk, sometimes halt and practice standing still for a minute.  When we got to the turn to go home, she wanted to go that way, of course, so instead, we went the long way around the block toward home.  Then we did a branch off onto a side road, then turned back toward home again.  Then we passed our turn for a minute, then turned back (a couple times).  Then we passed the driveway, then turned around (a couple times).  Then we went into the driveway and back out of it.  She was never bratty about any of this, but I don't want her to become that way, either.  This was all at a walk, so it slowed our overall speed some (as did the "exploring" portion), but we had plenty of daylight, so it was all good.

I untacked her, then Arya got some water and a good roll, and I headed home.  Another successful solo ride in the books!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Part XVI

I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.

As soon as we finish dealing with the guy from the last post, we have another one.

We had a customer call us who had called in the past, requested a quote, and never bought.  THIS time, she was ready to buy.  I was actually the one who talked to her when she called to place the order--she told me which product she wanted, and I asked if she had a preferred day or time for the delivery.  Nope, any time was good, and the sooner the better.  So we lined up a truck, made the product, and loaded a trailer.

The driver arrived, we weighed the truck, and it was a little heavy, so we adjusted the load.  In the meantime, since this was a first time customer, I'm trying to invoice her so we can charge her credit card at the same time the product leaves the lot, but the invoice keeps changing as we pull product off to lighten the load.  Finally we get it ready to go, the driver signs the paperwork, and she asks what time it should deliver.  (Yes, a woman driver!  They're rare, but usually refreshing.)  We told her the customer hadn't specified a time, so whenever would be fine.  She said, "Well, it takes about 12 hours to get there..."  Yes, well 12 hours from now is 4:00 a.m., so probably NOT then.  The driver said her information from the trucking company said to deliver at 10:00 a.m.  Well, then there you go.  Deliver it at 10:00 a.m.  But feel free to call the customer after 8:00 to see if you can deliver it earlier (or later, if you like).  Whatever.

My co-worker then called the customer to tell her the load was on its way and give her the heads-up that we'd be running her credit card for the payment (which she had already said was fine, but still...).  Well, the customer FREAKED out, and said it couldn't deliver tomorrow, they had film crews all over the property tomorrow, and her crew wouldn't be able to unload and oh dear or dear oh dear.  Remember, this is the SAME DAY as the customer who also told us while the driver was on the lot, that he couldn't let us ship his product without some magical certificate.  This NEVER happens, so twice in one day was just bizarre.

My co-worker managed to flag the truck driver down before she left the lot, and the customer managed to find a time that MIGHT work for her, but then after all that, we found out that the trucking company has a depot (or whatever it's called) in the same town as the customer, so worst case, the driver can drop the trailer there, where it won't bother the customer but where the driver can move on to the next load, and then the customer can let us know when they ARE ready for the load (and probably pay an extra fee to get it basically stored at the lot, but not our problem except as the pass-through for the billing).

Whew.  What a day.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Trucking Edition, Part XV

I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.

A driver from a trucking company we don't normally use (and haven't even heard of--we didn't hire them, but they're coming to pick something up from us that isn't our normal shipment) came in today.  First, he called to let us know his ETA, which was nice.  He asked where the nearest truck stop (by name) is, I told him, and told him we don't recommend using their scale, as it's WAY off, but he could continue past it another however-many miles to a much better scale.  I assured him we have a scale, though, and while it's not certified, it is calibrated, so if/when he gets to a state scale, he won't need to be worry about being overweight.

He called again when he was about an hour out, to update his ETA (wow--how thoughtful, seriously, that's not sarcasm!) and asked my co-worker about the same truck stop, and surprise, surprise (since he's how I knew what to tell the guy), he told him the same thing I had earlier.

A few minutes ago, we heard an awful squealing/squawking/screeching of brakes, and my co-worker and I both looked up from our desks, at the truck slowing outside our driveway, and then to each other.  Guess he's arrived!

He came inside, we told him which dock to back up to, and he asked AGAIN about the truck stop.  Seriously, dude.  It's just as many miles away now as it was the last two times you asked.  Plate tectonics don't move THAT fast, don't worry.  Finally, he went back out to his truck to drive it over to the dock, and the starter made a god-awful racket as he fired it up.

We got him loaded up, and guess what?  That god-awful racket was because that was the last time the starter would ever start again.  Yep, he's stuck on our lot, in our loading dock.  Luckily, we didn't have any more orders to load, either the rest of the day or the next, so he had some time to get a mobile mechanic out to fix it.

Lucky us, he was still in the loading dock when we got here this morning.  Our poor maintenance guy arrived at 6 and got to spend two hours being the only one on the property for the driver to talk to.  Oh, and he also got to be the one to tell him that he couldn't put his pee baggies (!!) in our bin marked "wood only."  Yeah.  He ALSO got to tell him how far it was to the nearest truck stop about a dozen times.   Wow.

Once my co-worker and I were in the office, the truck driver also came in here a few times to give us updates, including making a phone call on  his cell phone while pacing in front of our desks.  Then he debated the merits of taking a cab to a motel (benefit--shower, for one!) with us.  Then he told us we were so friendly and nice.  Uh, only to your face, dude--get out of here!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Still Memorial - Limited Distance Ride

The sport of endurance is officially rides of 50 miles or longer.  But people wanted to get started in the sport without committing to such a long, difficult distance, so rides started offering "limited distance" rides of 25-30 miles to appease the newbies to the sport, but they are tracked separately from REAL endurance rides--separate pool of miles in your record, separate pool of points, if any, separate awards system, etc.  Nowadays, many rides also offer a 10-15 mile "intro" ride (which is what I did at Grizzly two weeks ago), but there are NO miles or points tracked within the endurance system for these rides, you just get the benefit of the pre-flagged trails and going through the experience of vet checks, etc., but with basically nothing to show for it.

So, having completed the intro ride two weeks prior, Arya and I were entered for the limited distance (LD) ride at Still Memorial this past weekend.  It was to be 25 miles (the most we've ever ridden was 12-14, depending on how much you believe the GPS tracking on my phone), on the hottest day of the year so far, with very little shade.  It turns out there was also more elevation change and rockier terrain than I was expecting or prepared for, as well.

We (Shar's other boarders, Holly and Graham, who I did the Smith Rock Ride with; Graham and I rode the 10-mile ride at Grizzly together while Holly rode the 30+-mile ride with Shar; Shar wasn't able to ride this ride because Flash is on the disabled list (hopefully very temporarily)) chose the Friday ride for a few reasons:  fewer other riders, two shorter loops rather than one long one (and therefore the only mid-ride vet check at the same place we began, rather than elsewhere), and best of all, a late-morning start. 

I drove to Shar's early Friday morning (I had to set my alarm earlier than I do for work, even without showering), with all the gear I needed for a day's ride, plus WAY more in case I needed to spend the night at her place, being too exhausted to drive home after a long hot day.  We hooked up the trailer, loaded the horse, and we were off.  Holly and Graham had already grabbed their horses, and I'd loaded up everything I'd need a couple days earlier, so at least didn't have to do that the morning of.

I left separately, in my car, and Shar drove the horses to a different friend's house to pick up HER horse (she was working until right before the ride began, so she was driving straight there from work--what logistics!).  I arrived long before Shar, of course, since she had the detour PLUS had to drive slower.  I mixed up some horse slop (feed pellets plus water plus electrolytes), got everything out of my car that I would need for the day, got registered and got my vet card, then just hung around waiting.  

When Shar showed up, I helped unload both horses, gave them the slop (which promptly got spilled all over the trailer fender, tire, and ground, but they cleaned it up pretty well), and vetted Arya in.  All As, body score of 6 (out of 9, higher is fatter, 4.5 would be ideal--she's a little chubby), etc.  We tacked up, attended the ride meeting, and after hearing people say the footing was very rocky, I put hoof boots on her front feet.  But not her hind feet, since I've never ridden her with hind boots on, and she's got tough mustang feet.

Our little group waited until it seemed everyone else had gotten started, and headed for the starting line.  Shar cheered us on, proud of her little fledglings leaving the nest.  (For Graham and I, it was our first LD.  It was Holly's third.)  Then she had to take my car back to her house to meet the farrier who was coming to take care of Flash and hopefully get him OFF the DL sooner rather than later.  (Hence why we took separate vehicles instead of me riding in the truck--much faster and better mileage for her to take a smaller car, plus that way the camper and trailer would be there for our use if we got back from our first loop before she did.)

We set off down the trail.  Holly, the most experienced one with the most experienced endurance horse of the group, led the way, then her husband Graham, then me.  We passed a few RVs and tents, which of course piqued Arya's curiosity, but with her buddies there, she didn't worry about them too much.

The trail wound up, up, up a little canyon. And when I say trail, I really mean road.  Gravelly, gravelly road.  But Arya had boots on her tough feet, so we clip clopped along.  We trotted on the flat parts, and on on a lot of the uphills.  A couple times, I had to ask Holly to slow down as Arya was panting.  She pointed out that if we were going to complete, we really did need to keep up a faster pace.  I know, I know.  So I gave Arya a walk break until her breathing was under control, then asked for more trotting.

A few times, Holly and Graham got ahead of us, and I figured that would urge Arya to go faster, but long as her buddies are in sight, she doesn't really worry that they're pulling away from her.  This is good in a way, but means it's up to me to keep urging her faster when she doesn't want to go faster.  Ugh.

We wound around the side of a hill, got water in a little meadow-like area near a former apple orchard, and had our pictures taken by the ride photographer.  I realized a few minutes after the photographer that I had a huge smudge on the front of my shirt--I have no idea from where, but quite visible in the photos.  I'm waiting for the digital photos to be available so I can try to photoshop it out.

Holly (on Ace) ahead of me...

...Graham (on Emma) behind me

The view to our left

As the trail wound around into some blessed shade, I started to feel like Arya was off a little--her head was bobbing fairly regularly (I've learned if it only bobs every few strides, it's likely because she's trying to snag a bite to eat or rub her head on her leg to itch it).  So I started to pay attention, and then she took a REALLY bad step--her hind end kind of sank out from under me.  Then she took a few okay, but not perfect, steps, so I asked Graham (who was behind me) to watch her trot for a minute.  He (or Holly--I forget which) realized that her boot was no longer exactly on her HOOF, per se.  I hopped off, and sure enough, the boot was around her pastern, where there's normally a strap, but not this particular part of it, and there was no boot on her hoof.

Somehow, her hoof had gotten between the two plastic parts--one should be UNDER her hoof and around the toe, and the other should be BEHIND her heel, and both pieces have velcro straps that fasten around the front.  However, her hoof had gotten between these two pieces somehow, and it was around her ankle.  Backward--if I'd been able to pull it off and down onto her hoof again, it would have been backwards.  I seriously have no idea how she did it.  I tried and tried to pull it down off her hoof, but it wouldn't budge.  Holly tried.  Graham tried.  I looked for the pocket knife I swore I'd put into my pommel pack (turns out I DID, but in a different pocket).   Graham finally pulled out his pocket knife and tried unscrewing a screw that the cable seemed to go around.  However, there was apparently a post for it to pivot around other than just the screw--he removed the screw and the cable still wouldn't budge.  So then he started sawing at the cable.  It took FOREVER, and destroyed his knife, but eventually the cable broke and we were able to get the boot off her.  I strapped it to my saddle and put the loose parts in my pack.

I mounted up, and realized I should probably pull off the other boot so she wasn't uneven, and strapped THAT one to my saddle, too.  We'd lost probably 30 minutes to this whole hassle at this point, and I felt terrible.  It meant we'd either have to REALLY hurry, or that we'd possibly go over time.  Arya was already holding the group back with her slower pace, so I tried to convince Graham that he and Holly should go on without me, riding at a pace they thought could get them the completion, and Arya and I would follow behind at our own pace.  We'd try to do the miles, but possibly not in enough time.

(You have six hours, start to finish, to ride the 25 miles, but the clock keeps ticking during the mid-ride vet check and hold time.  Sometimes that hold is 60 minutes, so you have to ride a 5 mph pace (6 hours - 1 hour hold = 5 hours to ride 25 miles).  This ride had only a 45 minute hold, so a 4.76 mph pace would do.  However, we'd just lost at least 30 minutes.  We were 3.61 miles into a ride and were one hour into our six hours, so we had to ride the remaining mileage at a 5.05 mph pace.  Totally doable, but pushing it for Arya--we'd never actually kept up that pace in a training ride, due to stopping for longer than really necessary, or walking more than we should.)

So we started trotting, downhill.  This is not Arya's forte, but she seemed even more reluctant than usual.  She kept slowing to a walk, and I'd have to urge her on again.  Then we got to a flat part, and she STILL only wanted to walk.  Uh oh.  She was complaining about the gravel, basically.  Now that she was barefoot, she just couldn't take it.  And the trail seemed to be nothing but gravel road forever and ever.  So I decided that for Arya's sake, we needed to turn around.  Actually, at first I planned to follow Holly and Graham at a distance and still complete the loop, but slowly, though I think I told them I was turning around.  :-)  But when they got out of sight, Arya freaked out, plus I started to realize this was going to be a LONG, rocky ride, and it wasn't fair to her to try to do 12 1/2 miles of it barefoot, even if we walked the whole thing.  (And boy was that the right decision--we did end up turning around, and averaged 2 mph the whole way back because she was so ouchy.)

So yeah, Arya kind of spazzed out a little when the other two horses got out of sight.  So if she doesn't care when they're pulling away but IN sight, I guess she'd still eventually catch up to them when they got out of sight, but that's not good--fast/slow/fast/slow is much harder on her than just keeping up a steady pace would be.  Anyway, she wanted to catch up and wouldn't take no for an answer, so I dismounted and hand-walked her a ways while texting Shar to fill her in.  Then once Arya had calmed down, I mounted back up again and rode the rest of the way back to camp.

The view after I turned around

I thought about having a good cry about not only not completing, but turning around SO early in the ride, but I wasn't upset enough to cry.  Stuff happens, and it was the right thing to do for my horse.  And you know what?  I think those hills showed us that we're not really ready yet.  Arya needs more conditioning for hilly rides.  So we've got six weeks until our next ride to work on that.

When we got back to camp, the pulsers wanted to check her pulse, but I told them it wasn't necessary, as we were pulling "rider option." endurance (even in the 10-mile intro rides), there are vet checks.  There's a vet check before you even begin, to make sure the horse is ready for what's about to be asked of it.  There's a vet check at the end of the ride to make sure the horse is "fit to continue" and you didn't ride it into the ground and eke out every last ounce of energy it had, and for rides 25 miles or more, there's at least one vet check (more for more miles of course) in the middle.  At each check, the vet is looking for good hydration, mobile guts (horses are VERY prone to having their entire digestive system go wonky if you so much as look at them funny, let alone trot them for miles and miles), sound feet and legs, and overall health and well-being (such as making sure it's not coming down with an infectious disease or hasn't developed sores from the tack during the ride).  If at any point before, during, or after the ride, the vet thinks the horse is not "fit to continue" for any reason, they can pull the horse, disqualifying it from the ride.  If the vet pulls the horse, it will be noted in the record as lame (horse's gait was off, could be something wrong with the hoof or leg, could be as simple as having stepped on a rock wrong during the ride or could end up being something more serious), metabolic (something to do with hydration or digestion or muscle cramping, etc.), or "surface factors" which means wounds or sores on the horse, especially caused by tack and only going to be exacerbated by riding.  Vets have plenty of discretion.  They can note that something's not right, hold onto your vet card, and ask you to come back toward the end of the hold if they think there's something that will be better after a little rest and food and water.  If there's an issue with tack, they might ask if you can mitigate it (such as if the bit was rubbing and you can ride the rest of the way bitless), but ultimately it's their job to protect the horse.

Anyway, so if a vet pulls you, it goes in your record as such.  You can also be disqualified for going off course, or going over the time limit, etc.  But there's one more way to end your race without a completion--rider option.  This means that you, the rider, chose to end your eligibility for completion.  You can specify a reason--"RO Lame" means you are worried your horse is becoming lame, or will be if you continue riding, and "RO Metabolic" means you're worried about the metabolic issues as above for a vet pull, but it's not yet bad enough for a vet to pull you.  You can also simply RO, if you just plain don't want to continue--they'll never disqualify a rider whose horse is fit to continue, so if the rider's not fit to continue, they have to make the decision themselves.  :-)  Any of these things go in your record and show that you started a race but didn't finish it, but to riders, the reason really matters.  It's both your record as a rider AND your horse's record (which future potential purchasers interested in pursuing endurance WILL look up).  So in order to keep people from pulling out of a race as a rider option, making it look like THEIR choice, when the horse was in no way "fit to continue," you can't pull out as a rider option without getting checked out by the vet.

So all that explanation to say that while Arya and I didn't have to pulse in with the pulsers (we could have, and she would've passed, I'm sure--it was hot, but we'd been walking VERY slowly), we did have to get checked out by the vet (who also took her pulse--it's not like I got away without having her pulsed at all).  She listened to her heart and gut sounds, checked her hydration, and I believe she got scored just fine on all of those.  But she said she did trot "ouchy."  Not enough for a vet pull--if we'd wanted to continue (though by that point we'd have had to start over since we retraced our steps), she would have advised against it, and advised for booting all four feet (and now I only had three operational boots), but she wouldn't have pulled us from the competition at that point.  So I got to call it an RO, but it's still not a completion.  :-(

So I settled in at camp, got Arya untacked and cooled off a bit with some sponging, and settled in munching hay.  Except for the ouchy feet, she'd pretty much had a break by walking back so slowly, so she didn't need much care.

Surprisingly but not really, since we'd gone so slowly, it didn't take long for Holly and Graham to make it back to camp, too.  The two mares (Arya and Emma, who Graham was riding, are pasture mates and BFFs.  Seriously, is there a female equivalent of a bro-mance?  'cause they've got it) made it very clear they were back--they'd missed each other and bellowed their greetings to each other when Emma returned to camp.

I was all ready to help "crew" for them (take care of the horses so they could take care of themselves, or whatever would be helpful) so they could get back on the trail as refreshed as possible after their 45-minute hold, but they had also decided to "rider option."  In their cases, neither horse was lame or metabolic, so they get a pure "RO" (as if they'd just decided for their own sake not to continue), I believe, but I was still very disappointed on their behalf, and felt terrible for whatever part I might have played by holding them up so much.  They said it wasn't my fault at all--they'd wasted another hour due to taking a wrong trail (ribbons mark the way, and there were ribbons that went up a steep hill then just stopped--apparently by vandals, but possibly the volunteers who marked the trails started going the wrong way and didn't UN-mark the trail when they turned around).  They went up and down the hill a few times looking for where they missed the turn.  Anyway, so they felt they didn't have enough time to finish the second loop, plus Holly felt like her horse wasn't quite feeling like himself, though there wasn't anything specific to point to, so they both decided to pull, too.  :-(

Shar was so disappointed for us as well, and felt bad as our mentor, but of course it had nothing to do with her or her mentoring.  Stuff happens.  It probably didn't help that it was such a warm day, too--nearly 80 degrees for the first time this year.

So we all took care of  our horses, then waited for Shar's other friend to get back with her horse so we could take all the ponies home and settle them in.  She was the only one out of the four of us to complete that day, which was especially awesome since she literally showed up five minutes before the ride time!  (You can start as late as you want, and people often do start a few minutes late to let the front-runners get out ahead, but the clock starts at the appointed time, whether you start riding then or not, so the time limit ends at the same time for everyone, too, regardless when you start.)

Since I hadn't ridden nearly as long as planned, I wasn't ridiculously tired, so I did go home instead of spending the night at Shar's, but between hanging out at her place until nearly dark then still needing dinner, it was a late night.  And I had decided to go ahead and volunteer at the Saturday ride, so I set my alarm again, though not quite as early this time.

I showed up at ride camp (this time without a horse) bright and early, and as per usual, the volunteers sat around until the first riders were headed in for their first vet check.  Holly and I volunteered as pulsers all day.  For this ride, the pulse criteria was 60 for all distances and all vet checks (vets can choose criteria at their discretion), which meant that a rider's hold time didn't start until the horse's heart rate was measured to be 60 beats per minute or lower (and you want your hold time to start as soon as possible so you can leave as soon as possible and keep moving, because the clock keeps ticking through all of this).  All horses also had to "pulse down" to 60 within 30 minutes of crossing the finish line, and for the 25-mile riders (limited distance, or LD), they weren't considered finished until they pulsed down to 60, regardless of when they crossed the finish line (so yes, someone could come across the finish line first, but not place first officially).

This is all very official, and can be stressful in a ride with a lot of riders (or a lot of rude riders, or even just riders who've been riding a long time and just want to be DONE already, and you're supposed to count for at least 15 seconds, but they're rushing you and their horse doesn't hold still, and you know their heart rate is faster than one per second because you can hear the heart going faster than the second hand on your watch, but they want to know EXACTLY how many beats per minute and you can't do the math fast enough)...  But luckily this ride had a relatively low turnout, and relatively low-key riders, so it wasn't very stressful at all.  The most critical one was probably when Holly was pulsing someone (and Holly is an experienced vet tech, so even though she's a newbie to volunteering at a ride, she is NOT a newbie to counting heartbeats and multiplying by 4) and pulsed the horse as being higher than 60, so therefore not "down" yet.  (I forget the number, but unlike me, she was able to provide the rider with one on the spot.)  The rider had a heart rate monitor on their horse, and said it showed lower than 60 (I forget the number, but again, there was a specific number mentioned).  Yes, well, HRMs are known to be fairly inaccurate (see my story about that!  showed nearly 300 when she was walking slowly on the flat after a good rest, and 60 when chugging up a hill panting), so we'll go with the actual heartbeat we can hear and a watch, as per the AERC guidelines.  I think the rider asked for someone else to check, or maybe Holly just wanted someone else to check, so I came over, and the horse's heart rate was right about 60 and falling when I listened, and was dropped below 60 so I counted it for 15 seconds then gave her the go-ahead.  I probably should've been more defensive of Holly and explained that it certainly HAD been higher, but the rider just wanted to leave, so I didn't really explain.  Sorry, Holly!

We never really had more riders in than pulsers available (even if more riders did come in together, usually a few of them knew they wouldn't be "down" yet and headed straight for the water to let the horse drink and to cool him/her off, so we never got backed up, really), and had long stretches with no riders at all, so it was fun to shoot the breeze with endurance riders, and when we were done pulsing a batch of horses, we were able to help them cool their horses off if they wanted the help.

Though it did get "exciting" for a while when we got a few reports from a few different riders that one of the relative newbies from the intro ride (12 miles) had gotten lost and wandered onto the 25-mile loop, and was a LONG way from the main camp.  She was apparently much closer to the "out check" (the vet check away from the main camp), so people were directing her there, but no one knew for sure whether she'd actually made it there.  Eventually it was determined that she had been picked up by a friend, but I am still kinda worried to this day because no one was POSITIVE that it was her who had been picked up.  Yikes!  Hopefully all is well, though--obviously if she never turned up anywhere, someone would have missed her and tracker her down.  Right?

Anyway, I should've taken way more pictures, but didn't really think about it much, since when horses were there, we were busy, and when we were bored, there were no horses.  But I did take this photo:  A longtime, high-mileage endurance rider, Ron Sproat (over 10,000 recorded miles riding in competitions of 50 miles or more, so just imagine how many miles he's actually ridden overall!) was riding a mare, so his teammate and trainer to his horses "made" him wear pink, put pink tack on the horse, and even painted a sparkly heart on the horse's butt.  Ha!  He took it all in stride, and sported the pink shirt long after the riding was over for the day.

The only other photo I took all day was of the last rider to cross the finish line.  It was getting closer and closer to the maximum allotted time for the 50-mile ride, and this rider wasn't back yet.  People who knew her and the horse she was riding knew she'd take a while, but hoped she'd finish in time.  We discussed whether it was allowed to "fudge" the time just a little so she'd get the completion even if she crossed the finish line a little too late.  How late would be too late, and WERE managers allowed discretion?  If we were to abide strictly by the rules, she had to finish when the official ride clock said 6:30.  (Minutes count, but seconds don't, so technically 6:30:59 would count as being 6:30, we were pretty sure.)  At 6:27, she came into view on the hillside.  We all whooped and hollered, and she whooped back.  Her horse was cantering back into camp!  A little bit out from the finish line, she hopped off and jogged in on foot, leading her horse:

She crossed the finish line at 6:30 plus a few seconds, so no need to debate whether there was a fudge factor after all--she MADE it!  Well, like all the others, the horse had to pulse down to 60 within 30 minutes, but unless a horse is in a lot of stress and SHOULD be pulled (and attended to) anyway, that should be totally doable.  But she whipped the saddle off so fast she shoved it to the ground before the rest of us even realized what she was doing, then started POURING water over him.  No need to conserve the water at the only stock tank there at the pulsing area, since she was the last one through, and while there was also no need to obey the "no sponging directly from drinking water" rule, either, she was pouring bucket after bucket over him anyway, rather than worrying about sponging.  :-)

I stood in a big mud puddle to take his pulse.  He was still a bit over 60, but there was still plenty of time.  She kept pouring, and I kept checking between pours.  Finally, he was under 60 bpm.  I advised her to wait a minute just to be sure his heartrate didn't go back up after the pouring stopped but before he got to the vet, but she headed straight to the vet.  I actually don't know for sure, but am assuming he passed the check and she got her completion (results take a while to show up online and I didn't go back there for the awards the next morning--I'd had enough sun and wind in the two days I'd been there already and didn't need to make it three).

So that was a thrilling end to a day that was mostly boring punctuated by relatively calm moments of mild excitement.  :-)

Graham and Holly came back to Shar's with me, where I was house-sitting, and helped me feed the critters, then we chatted for a while before heading to bed.  I opened the window so I could hopefully hear the horses, though the crickets drowned them out (I have train tracks right outside my window at my house, so I only sleep with it open when my AC is broken), fell asleep quickly and slept like a ROCK.  I woke up at 6 because the dogs were hungry, fed them (and used the bathroom) then went right back to sleep for another few hours.  I woke up at nearly 9:00 and they were long gone, back to the ride camp for a THIRD day, for Holly to ride in a trail event.  I need to ask her how it was--I was strongly considering going, but was just exhausted already, plus worried the trails would be just as rocky (though they were supposedly going to be different trails than the one used up to that point).

Sunday morning, I was so exhausted it took me a while to get moving, but I was pretty glad I hadn't gone to the ride for a third day.  I still had to clean out Shar's trailer from Friday, so I did that, took myself out to breakfast, and went home, where I napped with my kitty who had missed me very much, vegged for a few hours, then went to bed early even though I'd napped.  (Kitty was excited for even more cuddles so soon.)

It's Monday now, and I still feel like I haven't fully re-hydrated from the weekend, and could probably still use a bit more sleep, but am mostly recovered.  Whew!

Short-term goals--evaluate boots vs. nail-on shoes with rubber soles vs. regular metal nail-on shoes, make a decision, and get her shod well before the next endurance ride if that's what I decide; work on conditioning--just plain trotting to get my thighs in better shape, plus walking and trotting up and down hills for Arya's fitness; also hiking/wogging for my thighs' sake while not tiring Arya out too much.  And try to take more pictures at the next ride, especially if I end up doing any volunteering again.