Monday, December 27, 2010
Merry Christmas to all of you.
I just want to say a big thank you to all of you who read my ramblings, of which I have not been very good at these days.I will work on it, I promise. But you should all know. There are many days that just seeing your responses makes my day, just knowing that some of you read what I actually write. It's hard to believe but I am very grateful. Writing this blog allows me to connect to others in this large world that I wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to do.. so thank you.
Since I was late for Christmas, I may as well be early for the next holiday.
Happy New Year !!
I know, I know, 2011 isn’t quite here yet but I am really looking forward to a new start. Heaven knows I need one.
2010 was one of the roughest years I can recall. It was a year of many stressors. It had a few high spots like completing Maggie’s first limited distance but overall, 2010 was a year of big challenges for me. Everything from health issues with family and friends, divorces, deaths, injured horses, expensive vehicle repairs and just when I thought I had reached a point where the year's misgivings couldn't possibly get any more difficult, it did just that.
I found myself faced with having to say goodbye to my best friend of over 12 years, my dog Munci. On December 23rd I had to make the devastating decision to say goodbye to Munci. He had developed cancer and by the time we saw any symptoms, the cancer had metastasized into his lungs. There was nothing we could do except keep him as comfortable as possible, give him lots of love, pray for a miracle and wait. Prayers are often answered in ways that you don’t always understand. My prayer was for Munci to make a miraculous recovery so we could have more time but most of all, my prayer for him was not to suffer. I didn’t get the first part of that prayer answered but the second part was. It was only a period of 5 days from the time we learned of the cancer before Munci and I had to part our ways. It will take some time to adjust to the silence that remains after a dog is no longer there in your home anymore.
Looking back at 2010 , I have to believe there is some other force out there that explains why so many difficult times ensued in 2010 for me. Maybe 2011, I get a clean slate. Atleast that is what I am hoping for.
Usually this time of year, I begin putting together a plan for training and conditioning for endurance, getting ready for at least one ride. Unfortunately, Hooves and Company, the local distance riders group I am part of, won’t be putting on a local ride like they (we) normally would. That means that I won't have access to a local ride in 2011. That really stinks butat this point, I am not going to stress about it.
Instead, my plan is pretty simple… just ride, as often as I can, as long as I can. JB will need many hours of rebuilding, mentally and physically. Maggie just needs many hours period. If a ride works out that I can attend, great, even if I have to travel. If not, I can still ride and log miles. I am planning a few weekend horse camping trips with friends. I am just looking forward to a summer of good times spent with good friends and good horses.
There are other things in store for 2011 at Acer Farms as well.
Stay tuned and once again, thank you for reads Barbs Etc.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
So, it's only days before Christmas is here. Are you still shopping, wondering what to get your horsey friends? I have the perfect thing.
For endurance riders, we're kind of a funny bunch. We're really into our equipment and many are really into accessories... We spend alot of time in the saddle and we focus alot on pacing, rhythym and timing. We all know that if we are tuned into our horse and our horse is tuned into us, we'll likely both come through 25, 50 or more miles a lot less fatigued. Getting into a rhythm is pretty important.Often times, when I am working in the arena on dressage or other flat work, I find playing music with a good beat helps both the horse and myself find cadence in a canter , or keeps the trot steady but having access to music while your out riding the trail isn’t always convenient, even with the age of personal music devices such as IPods. If you want your horse to be able to hear it, you need to pack along speakers and that just doesn't work. Believe me I have tried. As it turns out , there's another way to bring along some music with you and your steed out on the trail.
Rhythm beads, aka Speed beads. You’ve probably heard of them. Or maybe not.
What are Rhythm beads? Only the coolest thing I think an endurance rider could possibly accessorize their endurance "get up" with, in my humble opinion. !
They are jewelry for your horse but they are more than that. I think it’s a valuable training aid used to help accentuate the rhythm and cadence of your horses gaits. Remember that counting I was doing???
Those of you that are Rhythmically challenged….. listen up! This could be your ticket to not bouncing into your saddle anymore!
These Rhythm beads are worn like a necklace on your horse, just in front of his/her shoulders. They are typically made of glass beads interspersed with small bells. Similar to how a musician uses a metronome, the bells and beads omit a soft jingle as the horses move with each stride. It helps the rides learn to hear the gait, then learn to feel the gaits. Even better, horses seem to get something from them as well and will often learn to follow a tempo.Its not uncommon to see these necklaces worn in the dressage shows where riders and horses score depends stricly on finding rhythym and cadence in every gait at every moment. I have even used them when I do a little jumping to help me count strides between fences. The beads can also serve other functions as well. On the trail, they help alert wildlife that something is approaching. That can be beneficial when you live where I do and occasionally have to deal with bears , wolves and cougars. The last thing I want to do is surprise a mama Griz with a cub. The rhythm beads would let her know something is coming long before I get there, hopefully. (Ofcourse, I could always strap on a few larger bells to my saddle like a lot of riders do here, but to me they are kind of like a dinner bell to a bear since all the hikers in the park wear those big metal bells. Besides, the rhythm beads have a much nicer sound. Ofcourse, the other perk is simply that it kind of looks nice on your horse, you can match it to your color scheme and with most women, we all like to accessorize, right???
You can google rhythm beads and find a number of places that sell them or, if your like me, you can dabble into making your own and get double to pleasure of coming up with your own customized design. What a fun winter project!! And what a great gift idea!
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Warning- This post got more lengthy than I had hoped.
The article is by:
Jennifer G. Barrett, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS; Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center; Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine
Tendon and Ligament injuries in horses causes both economic and personal hardship for horse owners and industry professionals. A prolonged period of layup and rehabilitation is necessary, but whether the horse will be sound at the end of the rehabilitation period is uncertain. Lameness due to tendon and ligament injury is common in performance horses, affecting up to 25% of racehorses over a career and accounting for up to 43% of injuries in event horses, but it is also common to companion horses. Chronic lameness often follows the initial injury, with recurrence as high as 80% of racehorses with tendinitis.
Indeed, hardships .. hardships for me, ,my family (believe it or not), for JB and to some extent the vet and his staff( since I bugged them all the time with questions). In JB’s case, there was nothing I could have done to prevent him from rupturing his MCL, other than not letting him be pastured in the adjacent pen next to Grace, who, in hindsight probably antagonized him to the point he couldn’t take it, but the fact remains, it didn’t make the situation any less difficult. From the time of the injury to the point in the road when you get the conformation that everything is healed, the horse owner, the horse, and even to some extent the vet, are on pins and needles. Infection, too much inflammation, broken hardware, lack of healing, potential movement of hardware, or just re-injury . All of these things which could make or break the positive outcome. It could happen in the very beginning, it could happen towards the end, you just don’t know. In the beginning when JB had his cast on, he laid down a lot, (stress a lot) It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because as long as he was down, the weight was off the leg. This was good in the initial days. But with laying down a lot , you can also have other complications; Gut motility, respiratory issues, and he was at risk of hurting his leg every time he went to get up on all four feet, should he twist it or tweak it wrong. Another complication we dealth with was bed sores. Poor JB had the most horrible hock sores that I battled with every lotion, cream , salve under the sun to try to keep from reopening. As soon as they would start to heal, he would tear one open again in the process of pushing off his hind legs to get back on his feet. He got pretty sore on his hocks and while I think he knew I was trying to help with the goop I was constantly trying to apply, he preferred to not be touched much at all back there. We came to an agreement eventually but not before he managed to catch me a time or two from kicking out. Did I mention the little bugger has fast little hind feet?? I sustained more kicks from JB in those weeks than I have ever received from any horse. In one case, he caught the inside of my left knee. I got lucky that day, it was not a hard enough kick to injure my knee joint, just the tissue around it. That knee swelled like a balloon and turned some of the most putrefying colors…. So… Hardship??? yah, you could say that…Beware, your sweet horse you once knew will tend to get ornery at times...
Tendons connect muscle to bone, providing elasticity and increasing both gait efficiency and support to the lower limb alignment. Ligaments connect bone to bone, giving structural support for joints and maintaining suspension of the fetlock joint as part of the suspensory apparatus in the horse. Tendon and ligament injury can be classified into three categories: traumatic laceration or rupture; acute inflammation with swelling and pain (tendinitis); and a more subtle degenerative injury due to a failure to heal due to repetitive damage
JB fell into the first category , traumatic laceration or rupture but the interesting point here that caught my attention was Gait efficiency and gait, in general. With an endurance horse, it’s kind of important to have a horse be able to pass a vet exam so you can participate. In order to cover mile after mile, gait efficiency is very important. With the Pastern fusion procedure, JB is essentially now missing a key joint that provided cushion from impact.
We better do a quick anatomy lesson before I go much further:
The procedure fused the First and second Phalanx bones , or a.k.a. short and long pastern bones.
So what does this joint really do?
From the bottom of the cannon bone, the long pastern bone (First Phalanx)is the first bone we are talking about. It’s called a long bone because it has a central marrow. It is angled between the cannon bone and the short pastern bone and acts as part of the shock absorbing mechanism of the leg. The top of the bone is deeply grooved and divided into into two articular surfaces, which fit snugly together with the lower end of the cannon bone forming the fetlock joint. The lower end of the long pastern is also divided into two articular surfaces, the inner surface larger, but the line of division is not as distinct as the upper end. On the front surface of the bone is a bulge where the common digital extensor tendon attached. The superficial flexor tendons are attached at the back, on either side.
Below that lies the short pastern bone(second Phalanx) is a solid bone with no central marrow. It is important because it is partly inside and partly outside the wall of the hoof and also because it is the first bone to sustain concussion as the foot hits the ground. The short pastern is also an angled bone and is supported at the back by the deep flexor tendon. The superficial flexor tendon is also attached to the back surface and the common extensor tendon is attached to the front surface, just like the long pastern bone.
With a pastern Arthrodesis, the biomechanics of the joint change and the surrounding ligaments, tendons and joins will take on an additional burden. That means, JB's way of travel may always look a bit different. At this time, it’s hard to tell how JB’s body will adjust to this change. To call it lameness, right now, we probably could. Hopefully in time, that will lessen.
My vet and I discussed this part at length, given my hopes to return JB to limited distance or at best, longer distances, maybe real endurance?? In order for him to ever stand a chance at passing a vet exam at a ride again, his way of going will have to improve. As the vet indicated, given how well the fusion is healed in the xrays, he was surprised that JB had a slightly shorter step on the right side.. It's not something my vet wants me to worry about right now. When it comes time to start riding JB here in a couple of months, my instructions are to not let that short step deter JB returning to light work (to start). It could very well be something higher, something soft tissue in the knee or shoulder. It would stand to reason , given the position JB had himself in when he got injured and that he struggled badly. Could just be a soft tissue injury, and we all know how long those can take to heal. The bottom line is that all the indicators are there that he will return to full use. It will be a matter of working JB gradually back into fitness and seeing how he reacts each time. My plan is to take it slow, track his progress with each ride over a period of time and adjust where we need to.
The connective tissues from which tendons and ligaments are made are closely related. The highly organized structure of tendon enables it to be both strong and elastic. The cells within tendon produce the extracellular matrix that is organized into the fibers responsible for tendon's unique mechanical properties. The tendon fibers are made of the protein collagen (predominately type I). The collagen forms long interlaced fibers in the same alignment with the tendon length, but the fibers also have a pleated pattern termed "crimp" that, like a spring, gives elasticity to the tendon.
When a tendon is injured, tendon fibers are ruptured or degraded by the inflammation. Attempts at healing frequently fall short of the exact structure of normal tendon. Abnormal orientation, size and organization of the collagen fibers that replace the original structure have less strength and elasticity. This is thought to increase the risk of re-injury once the healing process is over.
Most of this doesn’t really apply to JB because the MCL is no longer part of JB’s anatomy. However, there are other ligaments and tendons to be watching as he returns to work. Re-injury is always lurking in the back of my mind. There are some things I am doing to help decrease that as much as possible and I will get to that in a minute. I don't even want to think about the word re-injury!
Because of the large amount of tissue matrix, tendons, and ligaments have a relatively small number of blood vessels and cells that can make new normal tendon. When the tendon is damaged, the injured fibers and matrix need to be degraded and removed during the inflammatory process. It is thought that poor healing in tendons results from a prolonged and inefficient inflammation needed to remodel the tendon and prevent scarring. Therefore, tendon requires as long as nine to 12 month for complete healing. Even with a careful rehabilitation program, re-injury is common.
Like tendons, injured ligaments can have a painfully slow healing process. We’ve probably all dealt with a bowed tendon? Now amplify that by about 10 times with a MCL or suspensory injury. If I opted to let time heal JB’s ruptured MCL, the outcome would have likely been poor. The ligament would have healed eventually on its own, in some fashion, but the likelihood of soundness were very low with pain and arthritis being very high. In the end, JB’s ruptured ligament was too severe for any hope with this approach, even with careful rehabilitation. Typically , it’s a torn or lacerated ligament injury, the outcome of letting them heal on their own is usually better. Arthritis on the other hand is always a factor in these cases.
Both acute and chronic degenerative lesions in ligament occur in all equine endeavors, with suspensory ligament injury (desmitis) being the most common. Suspensory ligament desmitis can cause a chronic lameness and be resistant to currently available treatment modalities. Also, because current therapies have not been compared to each other or proven, it is often difficult to know which one gives the best chance for complete healing.
In reality JB's suspensory ligament could be impacted.This is because the pastern fusion changes the biomechanics of his pastern joint. The vet isn’t overly concerned that he will have any issues, but if he goes back to work over distance, it will be something I need to be paying attention to. I may consider using SMB boots for support. My vet is consulting with a sports medicine vet on whether this will be helpful or not for JB. Stay tuned for updates on this topic. Or, if anyone has any input on this, I would love to hear about it.
There are more and more studies coming out about using stem cells for tendon injuries in horses. This procedure is actually increasingly being used in a number of clinical practices with some impressive results. There are two types of stem cell therapy, one is Mesenchymal stems cells (MSC’s) which are obtained from the horses own bone marrow. The procedure is invasive. The process then takes several weeks to culture the cell before they can be reinjected directly into the damaged tendon. The other therapy is Embryonic stem cells (ESC’s) This therapy is very new in treating horses with tendon injuries. The initial studies being done are showing a higher survival rate of the cells in the 10 day post injection period. It’s still very early in the process to know how effective they will be but the studies suggest that ESC’s could be a very viable option in the near future for tendon injuries. ESC’s can be used “off the shelf” unlike MSC’s.
Interesting stuff that I will likely continue to read up on.
Of course, there are other risks I am going to have to do my best to dodge. Arthritis in the surrounding joints (won’t be in the fused joint, for obvious reasons…).Through out his recovery I kept JB on a supplement for Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulfate , Hyaluronic Acid , MSM and Vitamin C. It’s a product through SmartPak called SmartFlex Reapir. It helped give him everything he needed for joint, tendon and ligament health during his recovery period. It wasn’t just his injured leg I was supporting. I wanted to support his other joints as well during his healing. He was stall bound for 4 weeks prior to his surgery and then 6 more weeks after that. The skeletal structure of a horse is designed for movement and without that, there is a risk of negative impacts to his other joints and tendons. I wasn’t sure if supplementation would help in the long run, but I wasn’t sure it wouldn’t help either. It was kind of like purchasing a little insurance. It certainly couldn’t hurt so there was nothing to lose. One thing I am certain of is that it kept inflammation down with the MSM. Low inflammation translates to increased healing.
Our understanding of how some degenerative and acute injuries are related to each other is incomplete. The current thinking is that a low level of damage or degeneration occurs in the tendon or ligament over time. This damage is not completely repaired and can go unnoticed, because there may be no lameness, pain or swelling.
The failure to completely heal may be due to the inability of tendons to remodel or because of the repetitive forces these structures experienced regularly during exercise. Then, at a critical point during exercise or overexertion, the low-grade injury can no longer hold up to normal use or perhaps to an overload, creating an acute lesion with heat, swelling and lameness. This injury typically starts in the center or core of the tendon (called a core lesion), where blood and serum form a clot that replaces the tendon fibers and creates more inflammation that results in more damage over the following days or weeks.
This paragraph points out why I am concerned about JB's suspensory ligament and the other supporting structures. It will be interesting to see how he progresses as those other tendons and ligaments begin to be stressed once he returns to regular exercise. I have very little concern about the fused joint itself as it has healed very solid. I have discontinued the Smart Flex Repair product since his x-rays, but will return to using a similar product for maintenance once JB goes back to work in an effort to continue to support those structures.
The diagnosis of tendon and ligament injuries has improved dramatically in recent years. Several newtreatment modalities are being used, a long lay-up period and the risk of recurrence are still factors for recovery. Newer treatments such as injection with stem cells or platelet-rich plasma are promising,as mentioned above, but their benefit has not been fully understood.
Other treatments I have and will continue to utilize is chiropractic and massage therapy and, even craniosacral therapy. JB had three craniosacral therapy session with a craniosacral therapist who works on large animals (imagine!), in the weeks after his surgery. The purpose was to help reduce inflammation and pain. Again, I have no idea if it truly helped or not but I was willing to do whatever I could for a successful outcome. Fortunately, I have access a very good, LEGITAMATE equine chiropractor who travels to this area for individual sessions. I have been taking horses to him for several years, including JB. You can be sure we’ll be on his list next time he swings through this area.
Further research into the detection, causes and best treatments for tendon and ligament injury are all needed. In a survey of American Association of Equine Practitioners members by the AAEP Foundation in 2009, musculoskeletal disease was ranked No. 1 as the equine body system that needs further research. Additionally, 75% of respondents believed more research is needed to specifically help treat tendon and ligament injury. Though there has been much attention given to arthritis research, relatively little research has been directed toward tendon and ligament injury.
The importance of tendon and ligament injury cannot be understated; it can be responsible for the development of joint disease and is frequently associated with navicular disease. Research on tendon and ligament injuries will to help prevent and treat this cause of lameness.
I did a lot of research regarding the procedure and the recovery period . When I was first researching the Pastern Arthrodesis surgery, living on a fence for those weeks, trying to make a decision, I was frustrated at the lack on information out there on this procedure and the associated recovery rates. I was hungry for information beyond what my vets and consulting vets were telling me. I found a few studies that had been done, none of which were all that helpful because the study was outdated and focused on a comparison of techniques used with different types of hardware and placement of hardware relative to success. Of course the techniques that they were researching in that study are now standard practice as far as what kind of plate and screws are used and how the screws are placed. It was only one study, and not useful in what I was after.
I wanted to know what to expect, what to be prepared for, the good the bad and the ugly. How often did horses really return to full use? What kind of full use? Were we talking Jumping, roping, endurance, dressage , endurance? Or were we talking occasional arena /trail horse? What about the difference in breeds? Small horses versus big horses? Does one heal better than the other? Have there ever been any other endurance horses that have done this and returned to full use? Ideally I would have liked to talked to a few horse owners that had had this exact surgery done and hear what their experience was. There just wasn’t much to be found and I felt as though I had to make my decision in a vacuum, hoping for a positive outcome. I would certainly agree that more research should be done in this area. I would even be willing to have JB’s progress as part of a study for recovery rates, if there ever was such a thing…
Rehab for a Pastern Arthrodesis (fusion of first and second Phalanx )is a bit different than Rehab for a tendon or ligament injury, although they they share some similarities. The time period is almost the same 9-12 months for optimal healing, sometimes longer. Injured tendon or ligament cannot withstand sudden heavy loading during this time and is highly susceptible to re-injury. Same with pastern arthrodesis. An example of a controlled exercise program is described below for a tendon/ligament injury. By gradually loading the tendon/ligament in increasing amounts, you are stimulating the tendon/ligament to heal to the best of its ability. With Pastern arthrodesis, impact to the joint was what was going to trigger the fusion, because bones respond to impact. Think about foals, they should have access to run and play for the best development of their skeletal and mucle structures . So, our rehab for JB was a bit of a spin off of this program once he was released to start hand-walking and ponying. In addition, JB has slowly been graduated to larger and larger paddocks so , by default, rehabbing himself.
**It is important to remember that this program noted below is to be used as a guide. Each horse is different., depending on the structure involved, severity of initial injury and progression of healing.
Controlled Exercise Program
0-60 days- handwalking )clock started at 5 mos post op for me
60-90 days - 5 minute trot/jog
90-150 days - 10-15 minute trot/jog
150-210 days - 20-25 minute trot/jog
210-240 days - canter 5 minutes / gallop 1 mile every other day (racehorse)
240-270 days - canter 10 minutes / gallop 1 mile every day (racehorse)
270-300 days - low jumping / short breeze (racehorse)
300-330 days - normal jumping / breezes (racehorse)
330-360 days - competition
WIth tendon and ligament specific injuries, recheck ultrasound exams are performed every 60 days to assess healing and to prevent reinjury. Ultrasound can detect evidence of tendon or ligament damage before a new injury occurs. In this case, the horses exercise level is reduced to prevent further injury. It is important to remember that horses should not advance in their exercise program without re-evaluation by a veterinarian.
With Pastern Arthrodesis, they did xrays when the surgery was completed to show placement of the hardware and then xrays again at the 6 months post op time. JB shouldn't need any more xrays unless something goes wrong.
PROGNOSIS- WILL MY HORSE BE ABLE TO RETURN TO HIS JOB?
At this point in time, JB’s orthopeadic surgery has been , a very positive outcome. My vet is very pleased with his progress and how everything has healed. He also feels that his chances are very good that he will return to distance riding. He may never be a 50 miler or a 100 miler but we just don't know yet. Lastly, I wanted to share a few key things I felt were most influential in having or getting a positive outcome.
1) Make sure your horse can handle being confined for a long time. If you don't think he can, either opt for keeping him medicated or don't go through with it. I kept JB lightly sedated, (enough to take the edge off) for the time he was in his cast.The longer the horses can keep the cast on the better the chances are for healing correctly.
2) Make sure the surgeon doing the procedure has alot of experience with it
3) Get several opinions, talk to as many people as you can about it.
4) Set it up so you can bring your horse back to the environment he is most comfortable in and make sure he is comfortable. It will keep him less stressed and less risk of injury during recovery. If that place is a boarding facility, make sure you or someone else you trust can be monitoring him daily at the minimum , ideally multiple times during the day. Things like your horse getting cast in his stall can be a huge set back. Monitor his eating, peeing, pooping, and his attitude. Make changes as you need to.
5) While in a stall, give your horse something to keep him occupied. For JB, I had a radio going, a fan to keep him cool, and I kept a quiet horse in a paddock about 20 feet away that he could see at all times. Every day, I would bring a horse over to JB's stall just to let JB make contact with another horse over his stall wall. They are herd animals and seek comfort in their herd mates. I also picked JB buckets upon buckets of green grass every day. You might consider hanging a "lik-it" toy to hang from the ceiling as well. I hung a ball that JB played with a little but it wasn't really his gig.
6)Give your horse the best possible feed you can and keep hay in front of him as much as possible. You may also want to supplement.
7)Supportive care like massage or craniosacral work. I also rubbed JB's other legs down every evening with arnica gel, especially his front left leg and his right knee , which was getting alot of pressure when he was in the cast.
8) Spend time with your horse during his recovery, as much as you reasonable can. At the risk of sounding a little woo-woo, talk to your horse in calming tones, tell your horse he/she is going to get better and that this is temporary. Use this time as an opportunity to bond. They understand more than you realize.
9) Keep your horse clean and his bedding clean. JB was groomed every day and because he couldn't roll while he was stalled, he especially enjoyed this time to get the itchies taken care of. I also cleaned his stall morning and night for all 10 weeks of his time being in a stall.
9) Keep a positive attitude- they can sense things we have no idea about.
Monday, November 29, 2010
While winter can come as early as October here, we don't typically see temperatures this low this early in the year. Fortunately, we were as prepared as we possibly could have been. The horses managed just fine and I didn’t even have to blanket anyone. The Morgans were clearly made for weather like this and it didn't seem to phase them. All the horses just hunkered down in their barns with hay piled up to munch on. Luckily after 4 days, the arctic blast lifted and the temperatures soared to 15 above. Balmy…atleast it felt like it after the 35 below…The horses thought so too as they ventured back out to the pastures and played in the fresh new snow. Once the cold moved out, we were then greeted by more snow. With the arctic cold and wind, most of the snow blew away but this next front was here to cover the landscape with lots of white stuff. Its been snowing for 5 days, each day adding just a few more inches. We have about 8 inches on the level I would guess. The horses have been froliking while I have been shoveling and shoveling and shoveling. I guess it’s a good addition to my workout routine..(silver lining??) I am hoping the sun will come out soon and I can get some photos. It makes for such a pretty setting. It makes me wish for a horse drawn sleigh!!
So, winter has arrived with a vengeance.I didn’t want to believe it , but maybe La Nina really has decided to come for a visit. If that’s true, I guess the best thing to do is embrace it because we have a long one ahead.
So , if you would excuse me. I’m off to bust out my snowshoes, my skiis and ofcourse, my shovel….
Sunday, November 21, 2010
April 28, 2010 is etched in my memory as one of the scariest days I have ever had to experience with one of my horses. This was the day JB found himself hung up in a gate, hanging upside down from his front right pastern.
May 21st, 2010- JB went under the knife to have Pastern Arthrodesis surgery to repair his damaged leg, facing a 70-80% chance of returning to a usable horse, and I , staring down the barrel of many months of doctoring him through his recovery.
November 20, 2010- is etched in my memory as one of the happiest days I have ever had to experience with one of my horses. 1 day shy of JB's 6 month post surgery and an appointment at the vet for his 6 month radiograph; the moment of truth; to see if the fusion was successful, if the joint had knitted together correctly without the body adding too much extra bone or calcification.
6 months of worry and work, fussing and fretting, lost hours of sleep, schedule changes....
The fusion was a success. JB has healed exeptionally well. In Pastern Arthrodesis, one of the main concerns is that the body will develop a large amount of additional bone or calcification at the site of the metal plate that held the joint in place (along with 5 screws) Often times, in response to the inflammation at the site of the plate, too much calcification can occur, and this makes it more unlikey that the horse will return to soundness. In JB's case, he developed only a small amount of calcification which should not hinder him. The vet was very pleased with how everything looked and the joint is solidly fused.
JB still short strides on the front right and this should lessen over time as the suspensory ligament and other supporting tendons adjust to the change in mechanics of the leg. The joint that is now fused will no longer serve to absorb shock like it once did. The other structures above and below the joint will have to take on the additional burden.
It's something I am going to have to keep an eye on over the course of time and possibly support with sports medicine boots.
So what happens now?
JB gets to go back out to a pasture for the winter. He gets to be back with other horses and during that time, he continues to heal and get stronger. Ofcourse, I worry about the footing. It's winter and it can get icey, but I am going to have to trust that JB will continue to take care of himself as well as he has through this entire process. He deeserves his freedom, afterall, he's earned it. It's been a long arduous process.
In the spring, JB will go back to work under saddle. The vet doesn't believe there is any inidication that he won't be able to tolerate limited distance in the future, noting that it may take 2 full years before that can happen but not to give up hope.
I wanted to say Thank You to all of my readers for all the support , prayers and encouraging words many of you sent our way during JB's surgery. Words can't express how much it helped me keep going, even during some of the more difficult days of his recovery.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
A couple weeks ago, I went to Scottsdale Arizona for a quick getaway to ring in my 35th birthday in style.
Since I have been back, I have had to hit the ground running. Work is crazy. I leave in the dark and come home in the dark. It can be a brutal schedule. There are chores to do, mouths to feed, and my workout routine has gone back into full swing. With riding time being on the back burner for the dark days of winter ahead, I get to change gears and focus on my own conditioning. As an endurance rider, I have pretty strong opinions about the fitness level riders should be in. I think that if your going to ask your horse to carry your ass over varied terrain at speed, you had better be in good enough shape to hold your own and carry your own weight if needed. I have always been an active person, regularly went to the gym since my days in High School but two years ago, I hit a wall, gained more weight than I ever had and felt miserable. During this same time, sustained an injury to my left foot while out jogging and that set me back even further. I kept doing the same stuff over and over and going backwards. I looked bad and felt bad. I started researching a bit. I started slowly cutting certain foods out. I felt better so I cut out a few more foods and felt even better. This process went on for months. The last major jump I made was discontinuing my gym membership and getting in the best shape of my life.
Last December, I was disgusted with the gym scene. There had to be a better way. Right after that, A friend gave me a dvd excercise program to check out. I said I would, but only because I was trying to be polite. I wasn't the work out at home kinda girl. No way was I going to pop in a dvd and workout in my living room. I'd never do it.
That DVD set sat on my desk for two weeks before I finally decided taking a look wouldn't hurt anything. Well, here I am a year later. I went from not being able to do more than a couple push ups to being able to do over 20 pushups. That 90 day workout program turned into a 180 day workout program for me. It was the hardest thing I have ever pushed myself through, physically. I have never felt stronger or more durable in my 35 years. Thank you P90X.
I entered the summer months feeling great. My first few conditioning rides on Maggie didn't leave me tired and sore like they would have in the past. In many cases, I was able to get off and run for a few miles without a second thought. In June, I had a minor set back when Maggie spooked and bucked me off. It was actually a bad fall because she ran into another horse while bucking and when I came out of the stirrup, I twisted my ankle, landed on my left shoulder and bounced my head a bit. It was bad timing too. 3 weeks before my scheduled Limited distance on Maggie. I gimped around with it taped for a couple days and did the ice and anti-inflammatories for a few days but in less than a week, I was mostly fine. It hurt if I lifted my toe or squatted down but otherwise, I bounced right back. I credit those intense workouts that I had been doing all winter and spring for my fast recovery. I have sprained that same ankle 3 times now and it has never healed that quickly.
A week ago, I got back into my winter workout routine. I am starting something new for a few weeks. It's another at home DVD program. It's high intensity interval training. Having not done a regimented workout through most of the summer, I am using this new workout to limber up again. Once I complete that, I will go back to a combination of interval training and P90X.
Remember what I said up above about feeling better than I ever have at 35? Well, it has a lot to do with these workouts and my eating habits. As far as endurance, I am setting the stage so that not only will my horse go the distance, but so will I and isn't that the best feeling?
Monday, October 25, 2010
First trot, and ofcourse, he is trying to out trot Cassidy.. (still has the competitive edge I see!)
Friday, October 8, 2010
In riding, this is one of my bad habits, born from the days of being thrown into a jumping saddle at a young age, atop a horse much too big for my short legs and flying around a jump course, in two point. What can I say…Old habits die hard… but leaning forward isn’t always a fault.
The 2010 riding season proved to be a storm of challenging winds blowing down on me. A career ending injury to a barely budding endurance athlete. JB had just begun to hit his stride in the Fall of 2009 with his first successful completion of 25 mile CTR ; a most difficult ride as far as terrain, footing, obstacles. JB managed to bring both me and himself through it , not without out struggles but in one piece and healthy nonetheless. It was defining moment for JB and I as partners. We faced some steep challenges but he definitely showed me he was the little horse that could. In the following spring of 2010, some of our first condition rides out, I was pleasantly surprised with this new horse that seemed to be emerging right before my eyes. He strode out with strength, speed and sureness in his step that I had not experienced before. I was overjoyed. After 3 years of struggling to get JB to this point, mentally and physically, we had finally arrived. He was ready to do endurance. It felt like we were on the golden road to many exciting adventures. I was looking forward to the journeys that lie ahead for JB and I.
But the golden road of future success took a hard left for us when JB was injured.
JB’s subsequent rehab from Pastern Arthrodesis surgery has consumed most my time since April. The process has proved to be a windy, challenging course. There have been unpredictable gusts, and alternately, there have been persistent, steady winds. There has been rain, thunder and clouds that loomed.
And we aren’t quite half way yet. There are still puddles to step in, winds to face.
I have tried to limit posts on JB’s rehab, not because I am trying to hide or diminish the challenges we have faced, there have been many; but because I am busy leaning into the wind, facing those challenges as they come at me, and trying to stay the course, stay positive, leaning forward into better times ahead.
JB has been transitioned into a 48 x48 pen now. He’s been there for 3 weeks. He bucks and runs, as much as he can in that space. Physically he’s getting stronger with each day that passes. Mentally, he’s recovering and I see glimmers of the old JB come out. He’s getting less reactive on noises but sometimes, he has bad days and he reverts. I am encouraged however; I can now at least start the lawnmower within a few of his pen without worrying that it will send him into a panic.
We go for daily walks in hand; he wants to trot, but I can’t let him. He wants to run with the herd, but it’s not time. His manners have suffered during his recovery, so I have started asking for him to remember. He’s coming around but it’s a process. Every day is a new day for us.
His old atrophied hoof is still growing out and the new hoof is coming in….slowly. I am not sure what he’s going to end up with at the end of his healing. Right now, his hoof looks very odd. Every 3-4 weeks, we have to rasp his hoof to keep the wall from making too much contact with the ground, in order to keep as much torque off the joint as possible. JB will remain on Farriers Formula until the new hoof is completely formed and hopefully he’ll have a relatively normal foot again.
JB has his 6 month post op anniversary in November. At that time, we will do radiographs. I am both anxious and nervous for that day. It’s the day I’ll know what our future road will look like. Will we find that golden road again where we can cover mile after mile together? Or will it be an easier path that we’ll need to take?
Only time will tell. Either way, as long as it’s a road we can travel together , I am happy.
When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk: he trots the air; the earth sings when he touches it; the basest horn of his hoof is more musical than the pipe of Hermes. ~William Shakespeare, Henry V
Monday, October 4, 2010
Maggie is finally well enough after her cold she has been battling. Since mid to Late August, she was suffering from a cough/ sneeze/snotty nose thing that just kept lingering. It never got real bad, she never spiked a temp but was lethargic and not her usual spirited self. The symptoms ebbed and flowed. She would be coughing a lot one day and the next day nothing. My vet wanted me to wait it out as these things usually take time to work through, as long as she never got any worse. For 5 weeks, I waited it. She was improving bit by bit, but still, every time she did more than a walk, the coughing fits would start. I finally decided to put her on antibiotics and within 4 days, she was already showing improvement. We are now back in business.
Saturday, I loaded Maggie up and we headed out for a ride. We’d be going it alone today, and I was actually looking forward to being on my own schedule. It was a hellacious week at work and this was a good way to put it all behind me. The sun was shining and the sky was that deep bright blue I have only ever witnessed this time of year in Montana. The trees were brilliantly lit up with the red, yellows, oranges of fall. They looked like they were glowing from within. The plan was an easy ride, maybe 6-7 miles of walking. Much of it would be hills, which is somewhat unavoidable at Herron Park. We’d take it slow. I suspected that Maggie had lost a fair amount of conditioning in the last several weeks. I took my time getting ready, enjoying the sun on my face. Herron Park was buzzing with people. Maggie was taking all the sights and sounds in. We headed out just in front of a few other riders . Maggie is still unsure about heading out alone. In time, with each new experience, she’ll gain confidence and march out onto the trail with purpose in her stride. For now, it’s often a difficult start, filled with hesitant steps, a moment to look back over her shoulder, to see if anyone else is with us, an occasional call to see if anyone will answer. But she does go on, responding to my words of encouragement and soft strokes to her neck. In time, I hope she’ll look towards me for guidance and reassurance when she isn’t sure of something. In time, I hope I can show her I am worthy of her trust.
With Maggie, this is all new to me. By the time I started riding JB, we already had a strong foundation together. Having brought him out of the wild, and gentled him over the course of many years, the trust was well established by the time I ever climbed in the saddle. With Maggie, we are still getting to know each other. We passed a few hikers and dog walkers along the way without any incident. So far so good, no cough, no sneezing. After about 2.5 miles, I noticed Maggie was beginning to sweat quite a bit and breathing fairly heavy . Her winter coat is already about half grown in and given the temps were already approaching the upper 70’s, I wasn’t surprised when she decided to take a break and catch her breath. We rested there for a few minutes, I gave her carrot snack and then carried on. Pretty soon, she stopped again. It was a bit of a long gradual uphill section of trail so I let her take another break. This went on a couple more times. After the fourth time of her doing this however, in a short distance, I started to become a bit concerned that something was amiss. After the last rest, she refused to go forward. When I nudged her sides with my legs, she pinned her ears, swished her tail and tried to cow kick my stirrup.
Uh-oh..I thought… could she be tying up?? How could that be? She isn’t on any grain other than handful of beet pulp morning and night , enough to mix her vitamins in.
I jumped off and felt her hind quarters. No tightness or spasms. She wasn’t standing funny and she didn’t look like she was in any distress. She just didn’t want to go any further.
Could it be she’s just a bit overheated?
I decided I had better play it safe. I turned her around and hand walked her for about a ½ mile. She willingly walked along just fine. Everything seemed fine. I decided to get back on and see how she did. We rode all the way back in to the “park” area of Herron Park without incident. In fact, she walked out so nicely I was really pleased with her. She even offered to pick up a trot a time or two (towards other horses of course) .
At this point; I figured if she were tying up, she definitely would not be this willing to move. I took her back to the trailer, unsaddled her and hosed her down. Normally she dislikes the hose, but this time, she just stood there and seemed to be enjoying the cool water. I thought my suspicions about getting overheated were confirmed. I supposed getting a bit too warm, combined with her lung capacity taking a toll from her cold, maybe she just wasn’t feeling great. I was glad I made the decision to listen to her and turn back. She hung out at the trailer to dry off and happily munched her hay with some hay while I visited with some people I knew who happened to be riding there as well. She seemed to be acting normal so we loaded up and headed home. Upon getting turned back out, she rolled, and frolicked and acted healthy as a horse, which I was relieved to see.
Sunday was cooler but still nice out. I decided I would take her back to Herron Park again and see how she did. Once again, we headed out, but took a different trail this time. There were fewer distractions around and she seemed more willing to focus on getting down the trail. We were on the flats and she offered to pick up a trot. We trotted along for a good mile before she wanted to stop. I could tell she was breathing quite a bit heavier than what was normal for her. Her stamina had definitely suffered with her cold. I suppose it’s just like when a person gets ill; it takes a while to get back to yourself physically. We headed up another loop trail and had to do a bit of climbing. About half way up the hill, Maggie stopped again. This time, I was less concerned about any other issues creeping up. She wasn’t sweating but I would just let her take her time. No sense over doing it. We rested, then we went on our way. Pretty soon, she stopped again. I took advantage of the stop to take off my sweatshirt and tied it on my saddle. In the process, I gave her a carrot from my packs. I climbed back on and asked her to move off. She did, but with a little hesitation and swish of her tail. Another few minutes, she stopped again. "Hmmm.. This again?"I thought.
Had I really managed to unintentionally taught her in one ride that if she keeps stopping, we’ll turn around and go back?? I encouraged her forward with my legs and she tried to cow kick me again. I asked a bit stronger, only to be greeted by her turning her head back over her shoulder to give a pinned ear mare look and another attempt at a cow kick. It’s her signature move and she usually manages to catch the bottom of my heel. (Something I know I will have to address at some point, but not this day!)
At this point, I knew my next attempt might become a bit of a battle of wills and I wanted to be prepared; or as prepared as I reasonably could. .I attached my GPS to my saddle packs so it wouldn’t go flying out of my hand. . In the process of me fiddling around, I noticed her ears suddenly perked up at the rustling of the packs and she looked at me over her shoulder as if to say…”Snack???” Talk about an Aha moment… I realized what the issue was…at least part of it anyways.
She had managed to figure out that when she stops, she often gets a carrot snack. She wasn’t getting a snack and that was why she was getting pissy and would keep trying to stop, both days. She wasn't feeling bad the day before, she wanted a carrot.. UGGH …How could I have been so dumb??? So, what else is there to do but to correct the problem I had created.
I asked her forward, with no offer of a snack. She refused, I asked with a bit more insistence with my legs and a strong verbal cue of “forward”. She shook her head, pinned her ears and half crow hopped a few steps.. ah yes, the Maggie snit fit… I asked again, this time with a stronger bump, bump with each heel. She went forward, in a sideways kind of motion and finished with a large leap crow hop forward.
"Your getting closer"….
I asked again, only softer this time, she took a step.. shaking her head in frustration. Again, a nudge, and a step. " Now you've got the right idea!"
Another squeeze, and finally she took three or four steps forward. Not happy, but forward. I'll take it...It was a place to start.
We carried on this way and went through this a couple more times before she decided she wasn’t going to get that carrot and we weren’t going to turn around and go back either.
Fool me once, but not twice... All in all, we made it 8 miles on Sunday and worked through those issues. Maggie is feeling fine. It will take her some time to get her stamina back to what it was but that will come in time. We got back to the trailer and I gave her a hay bag. I don’t know if I will continue to carry snacks with us anymore, at least not for a while. I learned a valuable lesson. I have a mare who is way smarter than I gave her credit for.
Monday, September 20, 2010
She's pretty bored with it, as you can see but it's a valuable tool. Tarps or things that "blow" in the wind can really spook a horse and land a rider a visit to the hospital. I will usually start out with a rope just dragging. I will switch hands, and therefore the horse will need to "switch eyes" ** make sure you have worked on this from the ground before you try it from the saddle..please!) I will also have soemone else drag the tarp, husband, or husband on his horse and we will follow the tarp along. In both dragging and chasing, we start at a walk and work up into a canter. To progress, we eventually add a towel to the rope, then a bag of some kind of plastic , something that makes noise and then progress from there depending on how the horse has handled it. I should mention that I didn't just jump on and start dragging noisy things around. I introduced her to all of this long before , from the ground , as part of her groundwork. Noisy plastic bags and tarps, and even bubble wrap was all part of her ground work. Maggie seems to be a pretty brave girl and doesn't get too worried about noises so this process has gone quite fast in comparison to what I have experienced with other colts.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
With Maggie on the mend, I thought maybe some easy work in the arena might be good for both of us. With endurance season coming to a close for me, I shift gears a bit this time of year. I get back into doing all the "other " stuff as far as training goes.
Maggie is a Morgan and what is a Morgan made for??? Pulling, Harness....yes pulling a rider up hill (tailing) is a good thing too, but that is not what I am talking about here. I am talking about hooking onto something with some heft and dragging it away, be it a log, a bawling calf , or whatever needs to be moved.
I started the leg work with Maggie this past spring with getting her accustomed to dragging tarps and dragging ropes. Maggie took right to it and the other night , with a short refresher course, I looped my rope around around small 8 ft wood pole and away we went, just like she'd been doing it all along. In time, we'll work towards pulling heavier and heavier objects and maybe I'll have to dust off my old harness eventually and get her hooked up to that!
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
In early August, for the first time in a long time, I had no desire to climb on a horse. I had no motivation to do much of anything. I fell of my normal exercise and eating routine and felt even worse, but I couldn’t seem to get myself to straighten up and fly right. I think it was a compilation of the stress at work, caring and rehabbing JB, and balancing a couple of other stressful personal situations that have come up this summer. Basically, I hit a wall and started experiencing bad Ju Ju… (or at least that is what a friend called it, whatever Ju Ju is…)
So I took a much needed vacation. 14 days days of R&R to be exact. I wasn’t productive at all, I didn’t really go anywhere special, and I only climbed on a horse once. Since, I have slowly managed to regain some traction in the motivation department. I am back in the saddle and have resumed some sort of conditioning routine with Maggie. I decided that for the fall season,(however long it may last before the weather turns too bad) I would focus on building Maggie’s stamina on the hill work. Long ,slow hill work. It’s her weak spot.
During my funk, Maggie ended up getting about 3 weeks off by the time I pulled myself back together. So we lost some ground in the fitness area but I am happy to report with things getting back to a normal routine, Maggie was making some good gains on her endurance on the uphill climbs. Things were humming right along until about two weeks ago.
Two things have reared their ugly heads in an attempt to derail us. The first thing is that it appears I am having some saddle fitting issue now with Maggie. She has already started getting her winter coat (ughh) The first time I went to put a saddle back on her after her long hiatus, I noticed white hairs on her back, right where the bars of the saddle lay. Not only that, but the hair coming in had arippled looked to it.. definitely a problem. The worst of it is towards the front and while there are more white hairs on the right side, they are present on both sides. I was shocked... really. My saddle does actually does fit her quite well, even had it checked, and approved, by a professional saddle fitter this past spring. Her back hasn’t changed all that much, atleast not to the naked eye. I have been using the same pad situation all summer. The sweat patterns always looked even. So why/how did the white hairs appear now? Why would they show up during a time when she wasn’t being ridden at all? I have consistently checked her for soreness in her back and she has never once shown any soreness, even after the 35 mile ride in July.
I have had poor fitting saddles before but never had an issue where white hairs showed up.
......................So what am I missing!? !
So here is where you readers come in.... help please...
How long does it/can it take from the time the saddle starts putting pressure to the time when the white hairs show up? Could it be that the saddle has been putting pressure on her all summer and the hairs are just now showing up because her winter coat is coming in??
Or could she really have developed them from one or two rides where the saddle wasn’t riding right? Can white hairs appear that fast?? Still, wouldn’t she exhibit back soreness?
I did remember that one of the last times I rode in the saddle, prior to her hiatus, the saddle seemed to be creaking more than I recalled it ever doing. I remember thinking that was odd and chekcing out the saddle but everything seemed in check. I didn’t give it much more thought. Maybe the saddle is needing reflocked?? I guess I also need to check the tree, make sure that something hasn’t happened there. I thought I would also try riding my older gelding in it and see if it creeks with him. If it doesn't, maybe that indicates it really doesn't fit her anymore??? I'll report back on that.
So for now, until I can figure this out, I am riding her in my Western wade, which is working well as far as fit.. for her. It’s just a bit heavier than I prefer and isn’t real comfortable for me for long hours…. But I’ll deal with it I suppose.
The second issue that has creeped up on us is that Maggie started coughing during a conditioning ride about a week and a half ago. At first I thought it was due to dryness of everything. It had been very dusty. Last weekend, I hadn’t heard her cough in a couple days and thought it was resolving. She wasn’t exhibiting any other symptoms to indicate she was ill. No snotty nose, no wheezing, no temp, eating drinking, etc. So, chalking it up to the dryness, I opted to head out for a 4 hr ride last Sunday. She seemed fine for the first several miles, but I noticed she seemed a bit lethargic. About half way through the ride, the coughing started whenever we would do more than a walk. I also noticed she was showing some discharge from her nose but it wasn’t yellow, more of a grayish/whitish color. So we finished our ride short and headed home. I took her temp which was well within normal range. I watched her for the rest of the weekend closely. In an hour of being within earshot of her, I heard her cough three times. Not a lot and not consistent but she did continue to act lethargic , even out in pasture. By Monday afternoon , her nasal discharge was bit more on the yellow side but then later her nose was dry, with a little clear fluid. It seems maybe she is fighting something off and I would imagine if it were serious she would have shown more in the way of symptoms. None of the other horses are exhibiting any symptoms either, which is good. So, for now the vet says to let her rest for a week and see how she does. If she gets worse, I'll probably have to take her into the clinic. I am hoping she just has a little cold due to the extreme weather change we had. 80’s to low 60’s and wet … certainly makes me want to cough and go hide under a blanket.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Check it out here to watch a video on the system.Being that it is made by the Germans, I am guessing the engineering is likely top notch.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Unfortunately, the cut of it doesn't fit my saddle very well so I find myself having to adjust it frequently. Otherwise, I have no complaints.
Trumbull Mountain is selling for $140. I am offering mine up for sale for $100 or best offer (+ shipping). I have only used it maybe a dozen times. It has plenty of wear left in it, and there are no tears, rips or any other damage to it.
See info about it here:
If interested or have questions, feel free to email me @ email@example.com
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Ever wonder what a horses dreams are made of? I think I know what JB was dreaming of in this one, his legs were twitching and moving, and I suspect he was dreaming of the day when he can run with his herd once again.
Patience grasshopper, soon you will be set free to run again. In the meantime, rest up kiddo...
He finally got up about 10 minutes later and I snapped this shot..he still looks sleepy!
Tricky water crossing, as you come down the trail, there are logs and rocks to step over in order to drop into the creek. Maggie is proving to be a thoughful trail horse in tricky footing and carefully picked her way across.
Monday, July 26, 2010
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
First and foremost, I took JB in yesterday for his post op xrays. This was the first time he has been out of the stall in 2 months. I wasn't sure how he would behave but he was perfectly calm and relaxed. I think he was just happy to get out and see something new. The xrays show that everything is healing nicely and the bone fusion looks very very good, with no extra calcium build-up around the joint (indicating irritation). Dr Erfle was very impressed with not only how the fusion looked but also how JB was moving on the leg. The best news is that JB can probably be moved out of the stall and into a 24 x24 area now and begin handwalking , but my vet wanted the surgeon to review the radiographs and give his nod of approval on that first. So I am waiting to here back on that.
I didn't realize how much I was living on pins and needles until seeing those radiographs. It's like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.
The second big newsflash, big for me atleast , was that Maggie and I completed the 35 miles at the Thompson River Ranch Ride successfully.
Ride story and pictures coming soon.
Monday, July 19, 2010
To begin with, Maggie and I both had some first-evers with this ride, some of which was bittersweet for me, as I had hoped to have my first AERC sanctioned ride completion atop of JB. But I rode the horse I had and she has impressed me. This was Maggie's first ever limited distance, first exposure to an endurance ride period and the first time we have ever ridden this far.
I am still bubbling with the excitement and the sweet feeling of accomplishing a long sought after goal. I had a lot of reservations about riding Maggie in this ride, given the distance. I felt she was prepared for a 25 , but when the ride changed to a 35, I just wasn’t sure. Simply put, we had not had the time to condition for a 35 miler. Another strike against us was that we had not had the opportunity to condition in any sort of heat. Our spring has been rainy and cold. The weather for the weekend of the ride was predicted to be in the 80’s, some of the first heat we've really seen. I decided, after much consideration, that we would try for it and take it mile by mile. I knew I could easily get her through the first 16.5 miles. If worse came to worse , I could rider option at the halfway point.
We set out at 7:00 a.m. My first goal was to avoid the “pack” and keep her mind with me instead of getting race brain. At 6:35 I walked her away from camp and Cassidy, Toms gelding and her half brother. After about 10 minutes of hand walking and letting her look around , I managed to climb on. My calm mare was suddenly kidnapped, only to be replaced by a horse I barely recognized. She was calling out, filled with nervous tension at all the activity, and although I had nothing to do with it, (sorry to say) displayed some beautiful piaffe steps. At one point, she lapsed into full mare temper tantrum mode when she insisted on wanting to turn around and go back down below to her safe haven (camp). When I insisted she stay with me, she let out a couple of healthy bucks. I managed to shut things down before it got too out of control but it seemed that the stage was set for a rough start.
I let the pack head out and found a spot not quite last, but about 4th from last and with plenty of room for ourselves. Maggie settled in a bit and started to relax. We managed to walk quietly along the creek and made our way to the cattle path through a wooded area without any difficulties. The start had to be a controlled start because we had to also weave our way through a bunch of cattle corrals and a section of the ranch yard before heading out across 2 miles of hay field. Things were going along nicely.
As we approached the end of the wooded area and about to embark across the cattle pens, I could hear the heavy breathing of a horse coming up quickly behind me. I glanced over my left shoulder to see a rider approaching on my left. He proceeded to slide in next to me, even though the trail was really only set up to handle single file. He was crowding me and Maggie and she was not happy with it. I politely asked him to give us a bit more room as my mare may kick( not really but it was a good excuse to get him to BACK OFF!) He backed off some, but continued talking , sharing that he was on a green horse and this was only her 2nd LD. His horse was beginning to creep up on us again so I stopped and asked him to go on by. I could see that he was going to travel a lot faster than Maggie and I . Luckily he walked on ahead and out of sight. I was glad to be rid of him. Maggie was a little upset that she got left but not overly reactive about it.
We popped out of the cattle path and headed toward the cattle corrals, where the bulls were being held..... when I looked up to see who?? My irritating friend who I was beginning to wonder if he was going to be a problem for us for the remainder of the ride. This time he had pulled off to the side and was waiting for me... He called out to me to ask if I would go first through the cattle pens, as his horse was unsure of it. Muttering not so nice things under my breath, Maggie and I went on ahead and walked through without any problems, trying to just get by and mostly ignore the fly (which is what he was reminding me of). I was hoping he would just stay behind me at this point because we had one more little obstacle get through, a partially exposed drainage culvert. I wasn’t exactly in the mood to babysit anyone else’s horse because I had my hands full with Maggie. I knew there would be no relaxing on this ride with her. I was going to have a full time job. The culvert was no doubt going to be a bit tricky but Maggie is not afraid of climbing things, so I was hoping it would be fine. She stopped, looked at it and then kind of hopped over it without much problem. I no sooner got over it and the fly started buzzing again, asking me to wait. I did, reluctantly... only to find out that he had already taken his horse down here twice to look at this obstacle the night before…so he said...
He continued to attach himself to me as I made my way out across the field, and continued babbling on about his horse. At this point, I was thoroughly irritated and wanting him to just go away . We began our 2 miles across the hayfield and he continued to ride next to me as he asked me numerous questions about the area, the trails, and all sorts of other things I wasn’t interested in talking to him about. Pretty soon, he picked up a trot and blasted away, yelling “ Well, have a good ride!”. I didn’t respond but was more than relieved to be rid of him. Guess he only needed me as a crutch to get his horse through the tough spots... gee , thanks a lot buddy.
Maggie on the other hand, was now sent into a mental meltdown since she realized she was suddenly left alone. She began tossing her head and having another temper tantrum until she frantically spun around to see the 3 horses that were still coming behind us. Had I let her, she would have hit a dead run in their direction, back towards where we just came from and the comfort of a herd. When she started to amp up and began doing her best impression of High Ho Silver, I decided to get off and hand walk her until I could get her out of the pasture. Pretty soon the 3 riders caught up to us and one of them happened to be a friend who was planning a slow ride. She offered to ride along with me , which was actually a relief because she had a fairly experienced horse. The other two riders she was riding with went on ahead. We were now dead last in the pack.
Maggie spent the next several miles fighting me to go faster, and several of those miles were a long steady uphill climb. I finally got to an area where it was open enough and we decided it would be best to let both horses blow off some energy, especially Maggie, who needed to stretch her legs . We cruised for a few miles in that pace, and my frineds horse, Max, really paced almost perfect with Maggie, who after about 3 miles started to settle in, eventually offering a nice steady trot, instead of the super fast road trot. After that, she was great and by the time we hit about 12 miles, she was much more relaxed and listening well. For the next several miles, we trotted where we could and walked all the uphills. She didn’t drink at any of the water stops (every 5 miles) but we had to cross a small creek about quarter mile from vet check. She took several big gulps at that point, which I was thrilled about. By the time we hit the vet check at 16.5 miles, she was beginning to feel a bit tired but certainly not out of gas. It took us 4 hrs and 15 minutes to get to vet check, an excruciatingly slow pace. This was partially due to Maggie's weak spot, trotting uphill, forcing us to walk all uphills to keep her heart rate from sky rocketing, and partially because we thought we took a wrong turn and backtracked for about a mile and a half, only to realize we were right to begin with.. grrrrrr. That little detour added an extra 45 minutes by the time it was all said and done. All I can say is lesson learned there, don’t listen to someone who is panicking that we are off trail when there are flags and your gut tells you we are correct. But, I digress. I was quite happy to have arrived at vet check, my momentary bliss was interrupted by the fly that I had started out with. As I walked in, he made a remark something to the effect of a comment about me finally making it in. I ignored him.. thinking what a little "ish" he was..
Once into vet check, it took Maggie a little longer to pulse to criteria because it was very congested and chaotic. The PR person kept saying she was right on but then she would jump up to 16 or 17 in last three beats. I moved off into a quieter spot away from the commotion and Maggie pulsed down to 15. She went through vet check and was given all A’s. Since the vet check was out of ride camp, Tom met me there with food for both Maggie and I , refilled water bottles and encouragement. Maggie didn’t eat her beet pulp at all but picked at her hay. Her appetite wasn’t what it should have been and I began to waiver on whether I should continue. On the other hand, Maggie was drinking well and took several good gulps of water while in our hold. I debated during the hold whether to rider option given her energy level but she perked up significantly in the last 20 minutes of the hold, ate some of her hay and I decided I was going to try to finish. She had A's on everything afterall and I knew that the ride back would be mostly downhill or flat with only two hills to climb. I could get off and hand walk her for that if needed.
So back out we went, to finish what we set out to do. For the first mile or so , Maggie felt fairly low energy but her ears were up and after only a short distance of walking, she perked up and offered to jog. We were alone , and at the back of the pack. My riding partner got out a few minutes ahead of me because her horse pulsed down quicker. She was nice enough to ask me if I wanted her to wait, but I told her I would go it alone on the way back and I would see her back in ride camp. I let Maggie pick her pace and we traveled along at the nicest little easy jog. I was thoroughly enjoying having the trail to ourselves. I kept a close eye on her heart rate and she stayed in well below 120. We traveled this way for several miles. When she wanted to walk, we walked. When she wanted to jog, we jogged. Going back, she drank at every water stop and she got thoroughly sponged down, as the temps were now climbing. A few 50 milers passed me and I was leap frogging another set of riders, who got offcourse apparently. Maggie and I even stopped a couple of time so she could get a few mouthfuls of grass along the way. Before I knew it we only had 5 miles left and suddenly, she must have figured it out because she got her second wind.
We crossed the finish line in 3 hrs from leaving the hold, cutting off an hour of what it took us to get to vet check. We repeated the earlier episode of her not pulsing down to criteria, again the same situation. As soon as I got her in the shade and away from the crowd, she pulsed down. We got all A’s in the final vet check other than her gut sounds were a little quiet, which I expected, given the fact that she had not eaten well at the halfway point.
I took away a lot of lessons learned about my horse from this ride. I rode my own ride, I took care of my horse, and I finished, with a healthy, happy (tired but happy) horse and that , my friends, is all that matters.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Maggie and I will have our go on Saturday with the 35 miler. Ironically enough, with all the miles I have marked preparing for this, I have only seen the first two miles and the last 2 miles of the 35 miler so it will be as much of a surprise to me as it is to anyone else coming in. No advantages here! Darn... All of my other trail discovering adventures were for the 50 miler or sections that we ended up not using this year.
Originally the limited distance ride was going to be a 25 miler, but with the way the trails came together, it turned out we had to add a few more miles to make it work right coming into vet check. I am a little concerned about how Maggie will handle the extra 10 miles but luckily , there isn’t a lot of elevation so I think if I pace her correctly, she’ll be fine.
This will be Maggie’s first competition and believe it or not, it will be my first actual AERC sanctioned ride. Everything else I have ridden , or attempted , was CTR’s. I hadn’t exactly planned on competing in my first AERC ride with Maggie, let alone doing it this year, but when life throws you lemons…. You know what they say.
For now, I am just trying to get through a busy work week and I guess I better start thinking about packing up. We'll head out on Friday morning.
Hope to see a few of you there!