Monday, May 18, 2009

Have a Nice Trip?

I spent the latter half of the week trying to fight back what started as a little cold, and quickly turned into some kind of nasty virus ( no, it’s wasn’t piggy flu but I did have to wonder!) . I could barely get out of bed Thursday and Friday. I spent both days downing decongestant, ibuprofen and sleeping. I had to get better by Saturday. It was supposed to be a beautiful weekend and I had riding to do. When a virus is coursing through your system, there isn’t much one can do but wait it out. When I tried to go halter up Rebel on Saturday and was winded simply by brushing him I decided to rethink my plan. The last thing I wanted was to extend my misery.. back to the house I went. By Saturday night I was feeling as though I was improving and decided to go ahead with my plans to meet a friend at Herron Park on Sunday for a ride, much to Tom's concern given my state! I loaded up Rebel , tissues, cough drops and water and headed out for the afternoon for a ride in the hills. The sun was shining and there wasn’t a lick of wind. FINALLY.
I wasn’t sure how crowded things would be at the park since there was a mini event that was going on but I lucked out. As I rolled in with my trailer, the last mini-eventer was rolling out. We had the whole place to ourselves practically. Herron Park is located just 5 miles west of town and easily accessible. It used to be the main location for the 3 day Event competitions for the area until another location was created a few years back. It’s a beautiful setting that continues to be used for practice and training by the local combined training group. It has 2 dressage arenas, a x-country course and then access to miles and miles of trails just behind it. It’s open to public use, including mountain bikers, hikers and dog walkers.
Brenda was already there and had Zera unloaded, her feisty Arabian mare. Rebel was more interested in the lush green grass so I let him graze while I saddled up. One nice thing about older geldings, they are completely driven by their stomach. I never have to worry about him wandering off too far as long as there is green grass to be had.
About a half hour later, we headed for the hills. We stayed at a slow pace since this was the first time I had Rebel out on hills at all. We headed off on one trail and it took us to a lookout… up we went, slowly climbing. We had to stop several times to let hikers and dogs or mountain bikers go by. Several times we had to stop for a break as Rebel was huffing and puffing. Once we made it to the top of the trail we were on, we stopped and I hopped off. Rebel was dripping wet with sweat. This was really the first warm day above 50 degrees we have had. Rebel is still shedding the last of his winter coat. Before I locked up the truck, the thermometer reading was 79 degrees. That was an hour ago and I was certain the temp had climbed since then. At the top , the breeze picked up and Rebel grazed a bit. Suddenly, swarms of mosquitoes were buzzing and drawing blood. Stupid me, obviously NOT in summer thinking yet, I didn’t even think to spray him or myself down with anything. Standing there , getting eaten alive was not an option so we decided to move on.
I was a little concerned with how sweaty Rebel was so I opted to stay on my own feet and walk him a ways. I could tell he probably had had enough so we turned to head back. After a little bit, he dried off so I hopped back on. We made our way onto one of the many two track dirt logging road that winds it’s way through the area to head back to the parking lot. The rest of the ride was flat or downhill. It would be an easy walk back to the trailer, but was a little longer following the road that winds around the mountain.
We got back to the trailer about an hour and a half later. Rebel was tired pup. He had tripped a few times. We had ridden for about 2.5 hours with over half of it being a steady uphill climb. Gheeezz. Guess I forgot that Rebel does have a few years on him. I guess it wouldn’t be fair to expect the old man to act like an 8 year old! It was a great ride just the same but I realized my expectations of Rebel getting fit for a 25 mile ride by the 2nd week in June may have been too high. We did about 9 miles we figured since most of the loop we rode is the loop commonly done on the poker rides, which are usually 9-10 miles.

The parking lot has access to running water so I filled a bucket and offered Rebel water but he wasn’t interested. I sponged him off really well and let him graze for a while longer while Brenda and I chit chatted about the Hooves and Company rides for the year. Atleast he could get some moisture from the grass. After about 15 minutes of grazing, Rebel stopped and just stood there, looking a bit listless. I got a little concerned and decided to load up and get him home. He had passed manure once on the trail but had’t peed. We loaded up and headed home. I turned him out in his paddock, where he promptly rolled and went to cleaning up his hay. I freshened up the water tank and he came over to take several good drinks. I think he was probably very tired and very thirsty, but otherwise okay.

When I finally got in the house, Tom asked how my ride went. My response?? Great and not so great. Great because I was out riding and it was a beautiful day , not so great because Rebel’s tripping issue plagued us. I mentioned earlier that Rebel had been tripping on the way back. No, the footing wasn’t bad, it was a fairly smooth dirt track.
Tripping has been an issue that has plagued us in the last few years with Rebel and has caused me a fair amount of trouble , not to mention anxiety. He has literally fallen down completely and landed on me in the past. For a while, we thought the tripping was caused when he got too long in the toe. While this does certainly exacerbate the tripping, this isn’t the issue most of the time. We keep him trimmed regularly. Then we thought it was something I was doing with my seat, getting in his way or something, but I have explored this with my dressage instructor…. He still trips even when my seat is correct. In fact he trips at liberty, on the lunge, etc. He trips with a saddle and without a saddle. It’s odd and it is .. well.. scary.
When we were riding, Brenda noticed that one time, Rebel stumbled when he actually was stepping so his right foot crossed in front of his left foot and tangling his front feet. Tangling his front feet? That seemed odd. One other time during the ride, he tripped because he stubbed his toe
Well, I have one theory; Rebel gets tense, it’s his nature. Always has been. I have heard of rope walking with horses which is a result of tension. Many horses do it, most go unnoticed to their rider. When Rebel gets tense, he hollows his back and his shoulders drop and instead of landing heel first , he starts landing toe first. I know this causes the tripping to get worse. Everytime we head out and turn to come home, he trips a lot more. It seems to be worse with his front right. But the part that has me totally confused is that sometimes, he trips when he doesn’t appear tense at all. He could be walking, relaxed, with his head low and he will still trip. So, my theory isn’t complete, obviously.
So what is it?? It is physical, mental, is it something anatomical? How do I fix it?? Honestly, I am not sure. I have tried various things, various suppling exercises. I have had the chiropractor out as well. Nothing seems to fix it permanently. The quest continues.

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