So you know most of the bad parts about the ride, but here’s the rest of the story. Afterall , we all live for a fellow distance riders ride story.
The first major highlight was that I went down with my friend “J” who has a pretty darn nice LQ 3 horse. I can always rough it in a tent for a couple days if needed, but given the opportunity who would turn down that offer? We split fuel costs and better yet, “T” came with and he chauffeured us to and from the ride. I got to rest up in the back seat of the truck , with my dog and my ipod and airconditioning. It doesn’t get much better than that for this sport.
The forecasted weather was to be in the high 90’s. I worried about those temps the week before. Maggie wilts in the heat. Lets face it, she’s no arab and she just doesn’t cool as efficiently. However, the morning of the ride, we woke up to a light drizzle , lots of clouds and a cool breeze. It was only in the mid to high 60’s. I rode with a rain jacket. With the cooler temps, we stood a pretty good chance of doing ok.
There were very few riders in attendance, sadly. However, this made for a relaxed atmosphere which was perfect “J” ‘s youngster .. This was his first exposure to any sort of event. The ride itself was held on a private 5000 acre ranch with some beautiful scenery.
We started at 7:00 in the rain. Maggie felt pretty fresh but not anxious. Since this was a CTR and some of the trails were said to be a little rockyt ,they gave us a total time of 7 hours ride time , which included a one hour hold in camp. Basically it was 3.5 hours to complete the first 15 mile loop and 2.5 hours to complete the second loop (10 miles).
We headed out in pairs of two, each two minutes apart. Jan and I quickly caught up with the first two riders and went on by. Their horses were walking and spooking. Maggie was eager to go so Red and Maggie set a pace and we let them trot out. We figured with some of the hills we had to climb (over 1000 feet in elevation)we had better make time on the flats where we could. We trotted across the hay field, praying our horses would miss the golfer holes. We crossed a narrow, scary and deep irrigation ditch which Maggie did like a champ , and then we hit the dirt road.. 2 plus miles of dirt road… blah…we had to follow for 2 miles. I didn’t much care for that part but we kept up with the trot since it was flat.
|Right after the big climb|
Shortly after that, we hit our first big climb. The hill seemed to go on forever, over a half mile long , and rocky . I am not talking a little gravely. I am talking sharp big rocks and lots of them . Rocky enough that I thought I should have pads on my horse and was probably risking getting a stone bruise. We could only walk. It took us over 20 minutes of walking to get up that hill. By now, the rain had mostly stopped and it was ungodly muggy out. At one point, I lost my head and hopped off Maggie. I was going to give her a break and hand walk her up the last steep part of the climb. “J” quickly reminded me we were in a CTR not an endurance ride and to get my butt back in the saddle. I Oops! Thought I was on an endurance ride for a split second there. I quickly got back on. In CTR’s, you can’t dismount , unless there are exceptions made by ride management for safety.
Most of the area had range cattle so there was often surprise black monsters in the trees or bushes. Maggie was fine with all but one that seemed particularly sneaky and she gave him a wide berth but never spooked. There was a lot of watering tanks along the way but Maggie would not drink on the entire first loop. No surprise there but as humid as it was, I was really wishing she would.
On that first loop, we really only had maybe 2 long sections that we could let the horses get out and boogie at a trot without worrying about a steep climb or rocky footing. The rest of the time we had to walk… the footing was too risky for a stone bruise or just too steep up or too steep down. In fact there were sections that were so steep and rocky, they allowed two of those exceptions and let us get off the horse to lead them down. Those were nearly ankle twisting sections for the rider.
It kinda sucked but we made it through the first loop without any major issues. Maggie seemed pretty sluggish about 5 miles into that first loop compared to her normal self. I equated it to the humidity. We came into the hold and she pulsed in at 11 within the 10 minutes. (10 or under is ideal but you don’t get dinged unless it’s 12 or higher) I untacked her and turned her loose in her pen for the hour hold and hoped that she would drink. She ate her beet pulp like a champ. Before I knew it , the hold time was up and we had to get ready again. I was trying to decided whether to electrolyte her because I wasn’t sure if she had taken a drink. Her hydration level seemed to be in the “OK to good” level with the pinch test and her cap refill time was fine. I knew that there were three water tanks within the first 6 miles of the second loop so we had plenty of opportunity to get water. Since her hydration level was not in any danger I went ahead and gave her another round of electrolytes
We headed back out across the landscape. Maggie did not seem right to me . Her ears were back and she just didn’t seem to want to move out well. We got to the first water which was a creek crossing. She rinsed her mouth out but refused to drink. I checked her hind quarters and nothing seemed tight to indicate she was showing sign of tying up. I had two more opportunities at water, so we kept going. As “J” and I trotted along, she agreed Maggie was not her usual go- go self. “J” asked me if Maggie knew how to drink with a bit in her mouth. I thought about it and realized that she had never drank with this bit in her mouth. In all of our conditioning rides, we never have water on the trail. I always take her back to the trailer but ofcourse she always refuses water at the trailer too. She would always wait until we got home and dive into her water bucket, in her corral, ofcourse, with no bit….
I never really considered that the bit was part of the drinking issue because she had drank well in the snaffle two years ago in her first race after the first 15 miles. I ride her in a totally different bit now. It didn’t seem like it should have made a difference because the bit has a good tongue relief but apparently it did.
We hit the next water trough and I took her bridle off. You might guess…
Yep, Maggie dove her whole nose in the tank and gulped and gulped and gulped water. I was never so relieved.
Ok, so I know that Ideally you’re not supposed to be figuring these things out in the middle of a competition but I was sure glad “J” had asked that question and we were able to figure it out when we did. That probably saved Maggie from coming in way too dehydrated and who knows what other metabolic issues.
We kept going and Maggie perked up but she still did not seem quite right to me. I wasn’t sure what was going on. I was watching her HR pretty closely but nothing alarming was showing. She wasn’t recovering as quickly on hills and when we trotted some of the flats she was a little higher than she normally is but she was still well below 150 unless we climbed a hill. If anything, the rates were telling me she was getting tired but not that she was in any major discomfort.
|an old ruin of an abandoned Mill Site, see building to the far left...they say it's haunted... we didn't see any ghosts..|
We hit the last water tank of the second loop and I unbridled her again but she didn’t want to drink so I just scooped water and poured it on her to help her cool off. We had four miles left. I kept her unbridled and rode the last four miles in just her halter. She seemed to be happier so I tied it onto Jan’s saddle which had better tie-off’s and continued. . Ofcourse, this presented it’s own set of issues because I had no stop on her and since the knot is tied underneath her chin, there was no directional reining either. We traveled along like a drunken sailor at times and I was pretty much a passenger at this point, trusting Maggie wouldn’t do anything too crazy.
We trotted until the 2 mile mark as it was mostly flat. Once we hit the 2 mile mark, you have to have forward motion or risk points being deducted. I wouldn’t say our motion was completely forward, but also a bit sideways as we navigated the snow fence with sheep behind it.. that was an interesting few moments. Not to mention, both horses were really struggling with stumbling. They were tired without a doubt. We came in exactly in our time window. I unsaddled her, gave her a quick sponge and headed over for our 10 minute P&R. Maggie pulsed down to 11 and the vet thought she had actually had improved her hydration level from the first loop. I was hoping that would be the case.
Typically in a CTR you have your P&R and then wait an hour for your final vet check. Due to a family death with the vet, she had to leave as soon as the ride was over, so we did our final vet through right after the P&R. Maggie got all zero’s (that’s a good thing in CTR) on cap refill, gut sounds, hydration, tack wear (no sore spots from saddle or bridle, no blemishes or cuts on legs, etc..I was happy with that.
However, we did have one surprise.
When we did the final trot out, Maggie was lame on her left hind. Grade two lame. Both “J” and I were shocked because I never felt or saw a single lame step, other than her stumbling. At first the vet scared me a bit because she thought that there was some evidence to suggest that Maggie may have been tying up. She felt some slight hardening in one spot along her rump, right next to her spine, towards to top of her tail. I watched Maggie urinate at the hold and it seemed fine at that point. I was not convinced she was tying up . The vet thought it could also just be a muscle strain but I would have to watch carefully. She suggested I give her some bute so I gave her two grams.
|Looking across one of the mountain valley's at one of the locations we were able to let the horses trot out.. the picture didn't do the scenery justice but we were at the highest point of the ride here.|
I took Maggie back to her pen and gave her more beet pulp with some Ultium and hay. She ate about half of it and then just stood quietly. I was watching to see if she would drink. It took her a good half hour before she wandered over to the water tank to drink. I never did see her urinate but after resting for a couple of hours, she perked up and chased “J” ‘s horse a couple of times away from her hay pile. Apparently she was feeling much better. I periodically checked her leg, hindquarter, and foot through out the evening to see if any swelling or change appeared. Nothing. She didn’t even exhibit any filling in her tendons which I expected with the hard ground we traveled on.I got showered (love LQ horse trailers!) and took some nap time until it was time for some dinner.
Things have a weird way of working out sometimes. A friend of mine and his wife live 5 miles from where the ride was being held. Since room in the LQ trailer was limited, they offered “T” room and board for the weekend at their place and “T” got an opportunity to offer my friend some horseback archery training. Anyways, this friends wife is a barrel racer who just happened to be taking 4 of her horses to see her vet Sunday morning, who also just happens to be the same vet that travels to my area monthly to do chiropractic work on horses. I have used him multiple times in the past. He’s one of the best in the northwest region, especially when it comes to performance horses. I thought it might be a good idea to have him take a look at Maggie and see if there was something he could do to help her. After a couple of phone calls and coordinating, he agreed to sneak Maggie in Sunday morning for an adjustment t before we headed back home. Our appointment was at 9:00. He watched her move and went to work on her. He didn’t think it was anything serious but she was definitely out in the Pelvis and L4, L5. The stifle was affected as well. When she walked out after he worked on her she was no longer short striding on that left hind. She stepped out normal.
I worked her on Tuesday, she seemed fine. I worked her on the lunge tonight. She seemed fine. The vet felt confident that she would be fine to compete this weekend . I have to decide. There is nothing to indicate that she wouldn't be ok at this point, but if there is some underlying issue, it could rear it's ugly head , causing me to have to pull.
I have one and half days to decide.... ofcourse, this trip will be back to primitive camping for me with my non living quarter trailer. Heavy rains predicted Friday night... hmmmm.. is it a sign??