Thursday, November 8, 2012

Storm Blowing In

I am sitting here in my new office. I get to look out at my south facing pasture to watch the horses munch their breakfast , tails  and manes whipping in the wind as a storm front moves in.

 I get to do that now, that is watch the horses from my office window.

I have managed to change jobs twice in a 3 month period after having worked in one place for nearly 10 years.  In August I chose to leave that 10 years employer . It was difficult to leave the people behind but certainly not the job. It was time for a change. The stress was getting too much. I took a position with another local insurance company , only it was a different insurance industry, and not at all familiar. Chage is good and it was a good job, a good place to work that offered security and decent benefits. It challenged me to step outside my comfort zone and learn something new. All of that was fine,  but I just couldn't get excited about it.
Opportunity fell on my doorstep when a previous aquaintance informed me of a position that came open with another company. They happened to be looking for someone with my knowledge on a sspecific system I was already familiar with. Fortunate for me, there aren't alot of us that have this particular system's knowledge.
So I applied and got the job. It's a good job as well, a better job in my opinion. It offers me the opportunity to work remotely, most of the time with some travel. In time, I suspect it will allow me much more freedom with my schedule. Just the saving on the fuel money might be able to go towards some time to board a horse at a stable this winter. But first thing is first. I have to get up and running.

On Sunday, I  head out for the first week of several for some training. Where I will be going is much warmer. With a winter weather advisory looming as I type, it's not all bad. Yet, it's always hard to leave the farm behind. I worry about the dogs, the horses. We are predicted to have our first signifigant snowfall today through Friday. We have been busy in the last several weeks not only getting my home office ready , which was a serious undertaking and reorganization , but also preparing for the inevitable first snow. It's a list of tasks I always seem to dread because of what it represents. Very little time with the horses. Nonetheless, all of the horseshoes are pulled for the winter allowing the hooves several months to go barefoot again. Last weekend, we finished loading the last of the hay for the year. The garden boxes are dug up and compost added. The tank heaters are in the water troughs, ready to be plugged in (most likely later today considering the temps) The gutters are cleaned out, the wood shed is full and the lawn equipment is winterized and replaced by the snowblower. The horse blankets are within easy reach should we need them. What else is there???

As always, summer and fall come to a close much too quickly and usually with several things left undone on the  "To-do list but the important things have been accomplished. I often find myself complaining about all the work that comes with owning a home, having livestock and keeping a place up. There is always a new addition to the list.
But for now, we will rest a bit and settle into a new chapter. 

Winter can lay down heavy upon us.

We are ready.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Fall Frenzy

Ok, the first thing is that I have to make a complaint to Google Blog site.  Something is going on with Google because it will not let me upload a photo.. some sort of server error ... So I will post without a pic .. and try again later... grrrrrr...

The fall frenzy has begun here. We have once again been blessed with an Indian  summer. September and most of October have  been beautiful. So much so that I have been shirking my duties when it comes to work around the farm to get ready for winte and have been spending  my weekends riding (f your on facebook, I have photos to prove it, I swear!)  or otherwise goofing off , rather than working on fall /winter preparations which is now at it’s crucial point. I have been enjoying getting out for easy trail rides with Maggie and JB.  JB is finally getting some concerted work again after two years of really not being ridden and he is doing very well. I forgot how much he enjoys going.

After these last several frenzied weeks ,  I am going to request that weeks are 3 days and weekends are 4 days long.  We seem to be having to cram 4 days of activities  into two days.

Deny it as I may, it’s time to get the  winter readiness stuff done around the place. This is the part about property ownership that kinda drags.
I often dream about what it would be like to  live somewhere that this task is not required. That would be so nice! Not to have to think about winter…have someone to do all your maintenance stuff for you ... hmm... maybe living in a condo isn't so bad.. no lawn care, no fencing, no cold frozen fingers trying to get livestock fed in a storm, no frozen pipes forcing me to haul buckets of  water so the horses can drink, no wood to split, a garage that can actually be used to house my vehicle so I don't have to scrape ice off my windshield at 6:00 in the morning, as opposed to a place that we store EVERYTHING else that doesn't fit in the hay barn or storage container......wouldn't that be the life on easy street..

..but I digress....

I suppose my dislike of all this winter chorse stuff stems from the fact that  it means the long days of being outside in the sun and fresh air in shorts and tank tops  are replaced by long dark days of cold,  having to wear boots and multiple layers , being held captive to our home as winter blows down on us and generally everythiing just being a bit more difficult.  I suppose that is why I procrastinated so long  on getting outside stuff wrapped up and tucked away.

Nonetheless, we reluctantly  managed to finally get some of the garden boxes cleaned up, and plucked the last of the onions out of the dirt, which was totally  cool to still have fresh produce  in October. We put most of the outside furniture away , and  weset the  wood crib up on the back porch and filled it.  We got the horse troughs switched out and stock tank heaters tested and installed, ready to be plugged in at the first sign of nasty weather.  There is still much to do, like fill the garden boxes with compost, put away more patio furniture, coil up a couple more hoses,  mow the yard one last time, get the lawn equipment winterized, and pull the snow blower out from the barn.  I hope we haven’t procrastinated too long!
I even did some heavy duty  indoor work that involved a lot of housecleaning and rearranging,  in preparation for  finally  getting a real home office set up. This was no easy task. It required us to switch what was the guest room downstairs and move it to the upstairs loft, which has been serving as a storage area.

Think tornado and you will understand what my storage area looked like.

 After atleast 250 trips of going up and down the stairs, 3 bags of old paperwork that had to be burned or shredded,  two car loads of goodwill donations , a full vacuum bag and a lot of empty boxes ,  I had a guest room again  and the downstairs  room  was beginning to look like a real office, like it was always intended to !  It will be so nice to have a dedicated work space instead of a desk shoved in the corner.

 After our full day of work on Saturday and most of Sunday morning, we decided we deserved to go for a ride on Sunday afternoon….

ofcourse one did not have to twist my arm too hard on that… housework or ride?? Hmmm, not a hard choice there.

…..and ….since it was opening weekend for hunting, Tom brought along his rifle and JB packed it for him. JB was quite disturbed about that thing bumping against his shoulder, but pretty soon he relaxed and set off at a pace that was on par with Maggie’s walk. 

 The ride was great, other than I nearly froze.  We started out with having to saddle up in a  snow squall and I quickly realized that  I had not dressed appropriate for today’s outing.  Apparently , I have still not made the mental shift that it’s late fall and one has to dress in more than a fleece, vest , jeans and light weight gloves. It didn’t matter, I was just happy to be out of the house and on my horse. I improvised and when I got cold, I just got off and did some  hiking on my own two feet . The hunting wasn’t great, we saw a few deer  and a lot of other hunters. The place was crawling with hunters in fact. We toyed with the idea of heading up to one area that was a bit higher in elevation and about 5  more miles in , where hunters on foot would likely not be, but it was getting too late and JB was at the end of his energy reserves so we opted to head out instead.

 The cooler weather is here and snow is predicted for this week. In spite of the cold, I thoroughly enjoyed the day on the trail .  Hard to say how many more opportunities we will get to ride out there again before there is too much snow and ice.  

I suppose while I am putting patio furniture away, I might as well  pull out the skiis and snowshoes… and the snowshovel..


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Look Heart ... No Hands..

Well, this one fits too... maybe even better..
Besides, I kinda like ol' Randy.. even if he does drink  a little too much a and decide to walk along the streets completely "neked" and find himself in the can't deny his unique sound...

Look Hard folks... No hands

"Making Gold From Rust"

 That post title should sound familiar... if not... keep reading..

Tomorrow, I will get up early, to go for a ride... just to go for a ride... that's it.. Simple.. and I am more excited about it than I have been for a looonnnngg time...

 I am meeting a friend.. and we are just going to go for a ride... simple, no mileage requirements, no time constraints... no speed minimums.. no heart rate monitor with gooey alove vera gel..

..Just a plain old boring trail ride.....I can't help but hum the old tune from the  Elton John song... Look Ma, No Hands... It just kinda fits my take on the horse thing these days...figuratively speaking...

I'll take a rainy day
To make a champagne shower
Poach some horn and tusk
To build an ivory tower
Been to Philadelphia
The day it was closedI
 walked to New Orleans
Down a Louisiana road
The skeletons they hung
From the bushes and the trees
But not a skull among them said, "Boo" to meIn a time of wine and cheap cigars
I'm on top of the world
Top of the world Ma
Look Ma no hands
Look Ma ain't life grand
I'm a super power, and I'm a handy man
Didn't I turn out, didn't I turn out to be
Everything you wanted
 MaAin't you proud of me
Takes a silver tongue
To have the Midas touch
Not your alchemist
Making gold from rust


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Where to go from here?

I went for a bike ride the other day. I love fall bike rides. Almost as much as fall horseback rides. There is something about riding through fallen leaves, horse or bike,  and hearing the leaves crackle and whirl away as you wisk by. The only problem is that I haven't been doing much horseback riding as of late. In fact, myabe only a handful of times since the Camas Creek Canter Endurance Ride.
Regardless, as the summer season begins to come to a close,  I am grateful for what I have to consider a successful seasonfor me and Maggie. We also  just wrapped up Tom’s Horseback Archery season this past weekend. He finished on a high note, scoring an all time high career of 141.00. He trained a lot and it paid off. He has already set his goals for next year and he has set the bar high. I am certain he will achieve it.
For me, it was much the same. I started my training early in the spring readying for the upcoming endurance season.  We slogged through weeks of bad weather, a record  mosquitoes  season, bad footing, saddle fit issues, a couple of close calls with bears and even two lameness issues in preparation for the opportunity to compete in a Limited Distance ride, not really knowing which one but preparing nonetheless.  Honestly, my goal wasn't necessarily to compete this summer. I wasn't totally sure I was going have any nearby opportunities. Instead my plan was to just focus on getting Maggie fit. Work on hills, work on rating, and just see.  I was unwilling to  commit  to anything until I saw how Maggie handled things. In the end, we managed to successfully complete  two Limited distance rides. We even managed to take first in one of those and top tenned in the other. It was like finally pushing a wall out of our way once and for all. 

It was such a huge sense of accomplishment for me.   I experienced a new high I had not had the pleasure of experiencing before.    All those hours of conditioning and training really did pay off. By the end of July,  Maggie was becoming less of a mystery  to me and I was realizing that if she didn't want to eat and drink, she wasn't going to die, atleast in the first 25 miles. 
After those two completions, my plan to was to take 10 days off and then get back to it with the idea in the back of my mind that  I would attend one more ride in September.  That is where the train left the tracks for me. 

In the days after that last race, I experienced a level of exhaustion I cannot even begin to explain. Getting up and functioning at a very basic level felt like the hardest thing in the world to do. I have never suffered from anything I would describe as depression, but what I was experiencing could  have probably been classified as just that. 
How could I be so euphoric only to crash days later? It was a totally foreign experience to me. The initial exhaustion passed within a couple of weeks but I continued to experience a general sense of malaise. That took some time to over come but I finally snapped out of it in mid to late August. During that period of time, I almost sold Maggie and my older gelding.  I wanted to be done with the responsibilities of having horses and all the work that comes with it.
I was done.Finito. Over it.... Mentally and physically. 
Then came a couple of meltdowns . Eventually I got through it.

How? I really don't know. It wasn't drug induced. I suppose the puppy, the  garden, a couple of good books, and some good wine pulled me through.(ok, maybe there were a few mood altering chemicals involved)

Looking back, I suspect it was all the months of training, worry, and work getting myself and Maggie ready.  It was also stress from my employer as there was so much going on with a corporate reorganization. I guess my body and mind finally hit max capacity. I had apparently hit the bottom of my reserve tank. I did take some time in August away from the office to help me refocus. When I returned from vacation, I gave my resignation notice... yep, I left my employer of 10 years and I set off into a new carerr. Let's just say it's been a trip...

 I have started riding Maggie again in the last couple of  weeks. Ofcourse it's only arena work  and it started out pretty rough. Maggie did not want to cooperate with things.  She even reverted back to her days of rearing and being overly reactive to leg pressure.  All she wanted to do was go and go fast…

All I could think was "well,  here we are in the same boat we were a year ago. We have had several sessions since and I think I have started to get Maggie's brain back.. mostly.  Nonetheless, her reversion has made me pause and think about where I am headed with her and this Endurance thing.

Physically,  Maggie  has proven more than being  capable to do the sport but mentally, I don’t think the sport of endurance is doing her any favors. She is pretty "hot" to begin with . She is a lot of horse.  Add a little speed into the mix, and have a few horses pass her??? It's all over.. She will fight to the end, like she did in the Camas Creek ride to catch those front horses.  Some people in the sport are okay with the “hotness” and raciness  but I don’t particularly enjoy it and I really don't like what it does to Maggie.  One year ago, I pulled her back from the conditioning for these same issues. This spring, her mental state seemed improved. She was doing better while riding with other horses  and listening to me while on the trail.  I thought we made it over that bump but it's back an  I am pretty sure this going to be a theme for her.  It's part of her make up.
Lippitt Morgan's can be just as hot as an arab, if not moreso.
So why continue putting so much time into something that is not necessarily the best fit for her?

I still love the sport but I am not sure where to go from here with endurance plans.  I feel like I have put forth every effort to make this sport work for Maggie but it feels like I am fitting a square peg into a round hole.  Our days, before the snow begins to fly, will continue to be spent back working on equitation and dressage. From there??? It's wide open..



Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Catching up

Our summer project list is slowing getting checked off. So far , I would say it’s been a very productive and enjoyable summer. At the top of my list is that I successfully completed two LD’s! Both were so unique and both had such great learning opportunities.

I suppose it’s not that big of a deal for most distance riders but it was for me on many levels. It’s been a long road with Maggie. It’s nice when all the planning, training, conditioning finally comes together..It's  nice to know that 3.5 years ago when I first laid eyes on her and thought  " now that little pack of dynamite might have some potential" comes to be true. 

Since the Camas Creek ride, I haven’t done a lick of riding. I haven’t even stressed about it either. For now, I think our endurance season is over. Remember I mentioned Plan C? I have several ideas rolling around in my head about what that is going to be but for now?

For now, I have decided that Plan C is to not have any agenda for my horse. I want to enjoy the rest of the summer with both horse and non horse related activities with NO AGENDA.  Maybe take a few rides into one of the many mountain lakes that we are surrounded by , maybe even pack a fishing pole along, throw out a fly line, see what bites. No conditioning schedule to stick to, no watching the HRM , no worrying about speed , time or distance… just ride and relax. Maybe even take ol’ JB out for a trail cruise… he is long overdue.

Maggie certainly isn’t complaining about that plan. She has been living the life of luxury and getting turned out to pasture for most of her days. I make frequent visits to her paddock to adjust her fly mask , and scratch her numerous bug bites, give her a carrot and reapply bug spray. She’s enjoying her leisure time, maybe a little too much! Her slim and fit self is giving into a good start on a grass belly so, her pasture time will be getting cut back again before she looks too much like a wood tick. Uggh.. Morgans!!! Its only been a little over a week!

I also have plenty of work around the place to keep up on this time of year. Gardening has become a huge theme for us. It's rewarding but still a ton of work. We now have 5 Garden boxes.  One of which is 16 feet long! Two weeks ago, the tomato plants reached a startling height of 4.5 feet tall .I think the organic stinky, make you want to vomit fish fertilizer , combined with the mini greehouse we built for them worked too well and they just kept getting taller and taller and not putting their energy into producing a lot of fruit.. I had to finally break down and strip them of most of their beautiful green healthy leaves that were not blossom producing. I just hate that task.. it seems so so……well…....wrong…!
The rest of garden is looking good. The squash, peppers,cabbage and onions are all doing well , aside from some bug infestations. We have even started on the second planting of cool season veggies like turnip, carrots, and rutabaga. I have already picked and dried several plants from the herb garden. LIke I said, alot of work , but so rewarding! I have 5 bags of spinach and 2 bags of Swiss chard all tucked away in the freezer. The strawberries didn't make it to the freezer. They were so good we were eating them daily!

More than half of our hay is in the hay barn, and almost all of our needed firewood is in the wood shed. That is always a huge relief. The puppy, Duncan McLeod of the Clan McLeod is giving us plenty of extra excitement in our lives along with a whole lot of extra time on poop patrol .

OMG...How can something so small produce so much poop??? I had forgotten how hard it is to keep a well maintained and clean back yard with two dogs…

This week so far has been dedicated to scraping out horse paddocks with a tractor. That’s never a pleasant job. Thank goodness for running water and a hot shower after that dirty chore. It sure smells alot less uuhhh.. horsey  around the place and it should help with the fly season, which has already started..tonight, I hang fly and wasp traps as the wasps are also out and aggressive as ever. I have already been stung by a hobo spider this summer, which has taken for ever to heal.   I certainly don't want a bee sting to match it.
Before I know it, it will be time to harvest the garden in earnest, pick the hops, grapes , plums, apples and cherries, right in time for the fall wine and beer making process! We are not bored people.

As far as endurance goes, there is always next season...

So, If I become a little absent on the blog....well...

Please enjoy the music while your party is being reached!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Top Ten Finish for Maggie

All week, Maggie gave no indication that she was anything but her normal self so I decided I had no excuse not to attend the Camas Creek Canter Endurance ride this past weekend. So Friday morning, withwhat seemed to take a lifetime, we finally managed to get packed up and on the road by about 2:00. Having a puppy and another full grown German Shepherd only complicates matters of travel, but we managed. We got into camp about 4:30 , I took care of registering and vetting through while "T" set up the tent, the awning(very high class at that) and other matters of camp. Luckily, the predicted heavy rain and severe thunderstorms skirted ride camp.

We finally settled into the tent way too late and completely exhausted. Then, pre -ride anxiety kicked in for me, resulting in a sleepless night..

Ride start time was 7:30 for LD riders, all 17 of us. I decided that I would try putting Maggie in the mid to back part of the pack of riders this time and see how it went. When I have started her in the back before, she just puts up a huge fight because she knows those horses are ahead of her and she wants to chase them down. The joys of a herdbound competitive mare. Well, my plan didn't work. The front runners went out and then a few more and then I decided to take my spot. She started out really good but then 3 horses behind were catching us and the race was on.. she starting pulling pretty hard. I finally pulled out of the frenzy and let them on by so we could be alone. She only had a small meltdown that was manageable and we continued on our way. She kept pulling, the entire 16 mile first loop. She refused to drink, but I kept her wet with water bottles and rode her into the one of the creeks  at one point just to cool her down. Another rider caught up to us, but it was a 50 miler who had gone off course at one tricky part of the trail and had ggone 6 miles out of her way.  Her and I rode together for the last 7 miles which helped Maggie. I wish I could remember her name but she was from the Kellogg area and had a lovely little mare ! I was glad to have the good company. We walked in the last 1/4 mile to start getting the pulse down. We finished our first loop in 2.5 hours. I knew it would take her a few minutes to get to pulse criteria of 60 , given the pace of  6.4 mph ,  which was faster than I wanted to go but Maggie was feeling strong. She scorred A's on everything but cap refill and hydration, which were B's. That wasn't unexpected considering she had refused water and food the entire way.

I put her back in her corral for the one hour hold and served up her beet pulp with Ultium (certain she would never refuse that) and hay. I began to worry when she wouldn't touch any of it or even drink. As a distance rider, my concern was that I would be causing her a metabolic crash by going back out.  As a horse person who knows her horse,  I knew Maggie is still very much in the "figuring this distance riding thing out stage" and that  her breeding and family history have proven that she is no delicate flower. In the few moments of trying to make the right decision,  a good friend who had come to the ride to see me, gave me some great advice. She comes from a long lifetime of ranch and cattle work along with a successful 3 day eventing career. I respect her immensely. She gave me some good advice that she once got from another friend one time. "A horse is a professional at being a horse. We are professionals at only thinking we know what is best for them."

The point was this;  maybe Maggie just wasn't thirsty or hungry yet, if she was, she would likely try to eat or drink something. I knew  Maggie wasn't in any metabolic danger at this point and I knew that given her history, she would likely drink during the second loop sometime. I finally decided that I probably needed to carry on and finish. Maggie proved I made the right decision when I went to get back on her .  I had to get on a moving target and she wanted to trot back out to the start. Ok, well then... here we go...

I had nine more miles which proved the be the prettier loop with a few less hills. The footing on this ride was much better than last week's , but still alot of logging road gravel. We finally made it to the only water on the second loop. I jumped off and pulled Maggie's bridle. She dove her whole nose into the water tanks and drank up....almost exactly as I predicted. We were at about 22.5 miles at this point.. Way longer than she should have gone without water or food. We had just a little further to go to finish and  she showed no evidence of slowing down; she boogied in her big girl trot until we hit the last 1/2 mile in to finish.  I dismounted, loosened her girth and walked her into the water tanks at the finish line. She drank again really well and I kept sponging her while I watched her HR come down...69....65.... and then hung there for a 1 minute of two so I kept sponging. Finally, she was down,  and we made our way over to P&R. We pulsed down to 60 and our final 9 mile loop took us 1.5 hours which was roughly a 6.0 mph pace. I waited in line for final vetting. That was when I found out that we were among the top ten finishers. I decided to go ahead and stand for BC. It was probably unlikely to get BC , considering her lack of drinking or eating, but I was also seeing and hearing that a lot of the horses were coming in looking pretty rough. Crazier things have happened. Maybe we would get lucky.

We did our initial completion vet check and her scores on hydration and cap refill were back up to an A-. Gut sounds were still a B and I think I had another B on something else but I can't remember what. I was slightly dehydrated and little tired.  For the trot out, the vet kind of shook his head. I thought at first it was bad and maybe the left hind thing was showing up again, but to my surprise, he said her impulsion and attitude indicated she wasn't even tired, that  she looked like she could easily keep going. He said she looked incredible. That was music to my ears!

We were to return in one hour for the BC vetting. Maggie drank again on the way back to her corral but still didn't eat in that one hour hold time, just stood quietly and rested and watched the other riders coming in with alert attention.

We went back in an hour for the BC vetting. I can't remember all of them but the cap refill, skin tenting , impulsion and attitude all stayed at an A. Gut sounds were still a B, anal tone was a B. There was probably one or two other B's, but otherwise, she had all A's.  The vet stated she must be a good drinker and eater. I had to fess up. I told him she had not had anything to drink until the second loop and that she hadn't eaten hardly anything since the night before. He looked rather shocked. He said to keep an eye on her and come find him if there was anything that seemed wrong.

We didn't end up taking Best Condition , we finished 7th , in fact I think I tied for 7th with another rider. I was pleased with how incredibly well Maggie did without doing all the things an endurance horse is supposed to do. It's kind of a mystery to me. My  hope is that in time, she learns to drink and eat more often. At the same time, this might just be how she is too.

I let Maggie rest for about 3 hours while we packed up camp. I don't normally like to haul a horse after a ride, but we needed to get home for some other committments. She had eaten her beet pulp and I hand grazed her for a while and she drank again so I felt like she would be ok to manage a 2 hour trailer ride to get her home  where she could get turned out onto some pasture for the night.

Resting up
Here's to another notch in Maggie's distance career.. Thank you my little Bay Morgan wonder!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dagnall Ranch Ride - The Rest of the Story


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.

My final score was a 97 which ended up putting me in first place for the Open division. Maggie’s first blue ribbon! I was pleased but my concern with the lameness overshadowed a celebratory mood. 

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??
Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dagnall Ranch CTR

I really wanted this to be a better post with photos and a good ride story but that will have to wait. Too much going on..

The long and short of it is this..

Tough ride- lots of ups and downs
Over a 1000 feet elevation climb
Awful rocky footing
Lots of hard, unforgiving dirt road riding.. major yuck...
and a few horse issues along the way..
but our final score was a 97 , which put us in first place in the Open division.

A BLUE RIBBON ! Our first win in anything!

Maggie  was a total trooper, in spite of some issues. And I learned a valuable lesson about Maggie as well.

Stay tuned for photos...and more about the ride details!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Plan A to Plan B

It’s time to start the packing process  and head to Idaho for the City of Rocks ride. In fact, the plan is to head out  Monday.  HOLY COW! It's here!

I have been training since March for this ride and looking so forward to it. I have been diligent and we have trained hard through ice, snow, cold, rain, humidity, and bugs. We have overcome numerous road blocks and crossed many bridges along the way. That is, after all what most of this sport is all about. I have the confidence in Maggie that I can point her down any trail , alone or with a another horse/rider and we will handle anything that comes our way. Maggie now knows to eat what is offered even when she is tired, she has learned to love beet pulp, and she will even drink out of a bucket, if that is all that is available. Maggie is ready.

We have arrived at the other end of what has been an amazing journey. Maggie has tested my abilities as a rider, and my patience as a person. This is my third year riding and training Maggie. More than once, I have had my doubts but she has now become a solid little trail horse and the ability to go the distance in this sport. A few more months of training and I have no doubt that she would be ready for a 50. She is strong both physically and mentally and I am so impressed with her. She has so much potential. I can't wait what the rest of the season brings.

As we all know, in this sport there are so many moving targets. Training for endurance forces a horse/rider team to constantly change and adapt to what comes their way. So, that is what I have recently been faced with having to do.

I am not going to City of Rocks….

I know… your thinking I am cancelling my attendance at a ride once again….

It came down to one thing… prioritization of time and well, lets just be (so two things)

I am a pragmatic person. Here were the facts I had to look at :

1)The drive to the ride is over a 10 hour drive one way. That’s over 20 hours of travel time.

2)City of Rocks ride is a 4 day ride. (for some reason I thought it was five days until about 1 month ago) That meant I could only ride two of the 4 days because I won’t ride Maggie back to back even if all I am doing is LD. She’s fit , but I don’t feel comfortable with pushing her that hard yet. She would need a day off in between.

10 hours one way is long way to go just to ride twice. Maybe I am just not dedicated enough but that is a lot of driving for not a lot of riding. The fuel bill round trip was going to be well over $400. Ouch.

3) Recent Trailer repairs- new bearings and tires on trailer all the way around. $$$$$$ but a necessity.

4)House sitter- $45/day x6 days??? You do the math. Can’t get anyone else cheaper this time of year , believe me I have tried.

5) Food, travel papers for horses and rides fees- budgeted for so not undoable,  but with all the other travel costs involved, the expenses started to feel like they were getting a bit high, again , to ride for two days.

6) Hay buying time- It’s in the budget but still , takes a chunk of change.

7) This year also marks my 10 year wedding anniversary coming up and we are planning a trip. I realized I was more than happy to forego an endurance ride for the opportunity to spend a week at an exotic beach somewhere.. like I said.. priorities(just bein honest here)

8) Last but not least, I had scheduled the entire week off from work.  I realized that I would spend two of those days in a truck (I hate sitting still for long periods of time) , 2 days riding (the good part), the rest of the time basically packing or unpacking. I just didn’t want to spend my vacation time that way. Too hectic….

Still, I  wanted to go in spite of all that..

As a last ditch effort to not pull the plug on something I had wanted to do so badly for so long, I posted on for a trailer pool offer to split travel costs . No inquiries came. A few friends thought about it but either they couldn’t afford it, it was haying season so they couldn’t get away, they didn’t have a way to camp or want to camp ( I don’t have living quarters), they didn’t think their horse was quite ready enough or they couldn’t be gone for the whole week that I was planning to be gone for. So that didn’t work out either.

In the end, when I penciled it all out, it just didn’t make sense to spend the resources. I really wanted to attend, not only for the ride but also to meet a several people that I often network with but have never actually met. I agonized over the decision for a couple of weeks, nearly drove my husband to insanity over it with my indecisiveness, but after I finally made the decision it was a huge sense of relief.

Right about now, as I post this, I would have begun the rat race of the packing and meal prep process. Instead, I can be riding… and looking forward to Plan B………

Just because City of Rocks is out, that doesn’t mean I am not riding or competing. Next Friday, I am headed to different ride, only 3 hours from home and a friend is coming along with her young horse. The only down side is that it’s a CTR ,which isn’t my favorite thing to do but will be the perfect preparation for the following weekend ( July 21 ) Camas Creek Canter Endurance ride in Potomac , Montana that I am also planning to attend.

I am sorry I won’t be able to see the City of Rocks ride and most sorry that I won’t get to meet all the people I would love to meet but I still get in two rides for the season. That may sound utterly pathetic to those of you that live in Endurance Mecca’s like Nevada or Idaho but it’s enough for me.

Besides……There’s a plan C ….

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Blip on the Radar....

It's been a little bit of a stressful few days in the horse department. We got back from Hamilton last Sunday and on Wednesday we were going to climb Columbia Mountain for some elevation and hill training. The only problem was that when I went to get Maggie out of her corral, she was lame. Not just a little off, but 3 legged lame..  I nearly vomited my breakfast when I saw it.. I have 4 weeks until the scheduled ride I am planning to attend.

 This can't be happening??? Right???

God knows we have all been there...

She had some minor swelling just above the pastern and was holding her heel up just a little.  "T" had just reset her two days ago. He was worried he had put in a hot nail on the reset.  I was sure that wasn't the case. Horses show immediate pain when that happens and it had been two days since that. I ruled out what I could; no heat, no throbbing digital pulse,  no evidence of a lodged rock, no cuts or abrasions. Given the fact that the night before she was tearing around the pasture just fine, I thought it was one of two things. She tweaked something out in the pasture or she had an abcess brewing. I decided it might be best to treat her for the abcess given the sudden onset  and acutness of her lameness. I soaked her foot, then  packed her foot in epsom salt poultice and put her in the round pen, gave her some bute,  and waited for her to get worse..or better.

She got  a little better by the next morning.. no signs of an abcess and she had walked through her packing. I didn't bother repacking it... gave her another dose of bute and waited some more..

The next day, she was better yet... and the swelling was gone.

By Saturday, she seemed back to herself.

 I was feeling like I dodged a huge bullet by that point. I had to make a decision however. Try riding her  or give her more time off. If I didn't ride today, she was going to get 3 more days off before I would have time to get any solid ride time on her. I decided to jgive her a test drive in the arena and make my decision on that.  She trotted in circles, both directions.. Not a hint of a limp or gimp..She cantered... not a problem.

So, what else could I do?? I got back on the condition schedule... As it was she was only ridden once  on the trail the week before and a long flat land trotting around a huge pasture for nearly two hours. I didn't feel like we could afford 3 more days of her sitting in her pasture loafing.

We had a hellacious storm last night and today it was hot, humid and generally sticky out. Something we are not accustomed to. The plan was a short 5-6 mile ride.  However, Maggie was full of energy and the leg did not seem to be causing her any issues so we kept going, in spite of the heat . We did alot of walking and climbed a few hills at a walk.

We covered over 10.5 miles by the time we made it out.  We were both covered in sweat and mosquito bites but happy nonetheless. Maggie still had plenty of energy. 

I think we are  back on track and it was just a blip on the radar.

Here are some scenery photos just because... I love Montana this time of year...

a view from home

some wildflowers found on the trail, I think it's a Glacier Lily??

Canola field view from home

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Week in Pictures

I was going to do a long post but it just was going to be too painful. There was so much that went on , I just decided a picture is worth a thousand , or more , words...

We loaded horses on Wednesday and headed south for Hamilton , Montana. I rode in my newly fitted saddle at the coolest place called Calf Creek Wildlife Managment area

Just starting out... and climbing up. Some really cool rock formations amongst the sage..It smelled so wonderful ..

Still climbing, a look off to the West and North.. the Bitteroot Range

Maggie can hardly believe she can see so far in the distance.... without trees obscuring the view...

But soon enough we found some lovely forest to hide us from the sun..

Is this really the right way? Look at the ear back listening to me....

Finally headed back down towards the trailer.. what a view...
Xena learned how to get comfortable camping after an intense training session with Bob...the Shutzhund trainer... and his ginormous scary looking male sheperd the size of a small pony...

Maggie had a bath in our friends lovely wash stall(those are knife throwing targets behind her ; in case she acted up... I could distract her...)

"T" doing his favorite sport, Kassai Horseback Archery...

There was probably more but I didn't snap near enough photos. It was a mini vacation filled with activities.  The Specialized saddle is refitted and "appears" to be working but need to do a few more rides yet in it to make sure...Xena and I got to work with a Shutzhund trainer and learned some really helpful skills to manage Xena's Fear aggression and Tom got to train for three days straigh in archery...

Not a bad life...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Interval training and Bears

I got one last ride in two night ago on Maggie. Since we were short on time and bad weather was rolling in, I opted to do a few hill intervals with her. I had the perfect training hill in mind over at the state land.It's good footing and it starts out steep, levels off , then goes up again for about a 1/4 mile. I thought we would just cruise up it at a big trot 3- or 4 times or for a 20-30 minute time period, which ever came first. Maggie decided she wanted to try to qualify as track pony and wanted to gallop up the hill. After a few strides I thought "surely, she'll tire enough and let up into a trot".. I was wrong. When the hill leveled off a bit , she just gathered herself up more and galloped even harder on the second part of the hill. I chalked it up to blowing off some steam but after she did this two more times, I was beginning to wonder. The 4 time up she did finally trot most of it and at that point I decided she had had enough. Her recoveries were pretty decent , to my surprise. She did hit 220 at the top on the second run but she recovered in under a minute to 117 and by two minutes she was down under 100.
She was still pretty energetic after all of this so I decided to take her for an easy jog and do a quick loop before we headed back. The weather was holding. We trotted along and pretty soon came upon a stump that had been pulled onto the trail and had been torn apart... that's a positive bear sign and I had been this way only two days before so it was a recent bear sign. hmmmm...

Keep trotting but now add singing and loud talking as well....

Not surprisingly, it was only a couple minutes later that the stump assaulter showed his face.  A black bear indeed. He was probably a year or two old and not a very big one but big enough and when your only 50 yards away and he stops to check you out, it's still unnerving. Maggie got a good look at him and just stared . She didn't spook or move, just looked. She has seen bears before but never this close. He finally  decided we were boring I guess and meanered off over the hill. Maggie did decide to pick up the pace after that and we made it back to the trailer in record time!

We are headed to Hamilton for the weekend for "T" Kassai Horseback Archery competition. I have a saddle fitting scheduled, a scheduled visit to  a  Marchador ranch (stay tuned) and with any luck  a ride in my old stomping grounds.

Better go pack and get ready to go!

Saturday, June 9, 2012


We have been at this condition thing pretty steadily  for  several months now.  Given  the recent ride with poor recoveries in respiration,  I had some concerns over Maggie’s fitness ,  mare heat issues aside. I have to be realistic with the upcoming ride just  4 weeks away.  It’s not going to be an easy ride. Lots of elevation and lots of climbing.  I want to be 100 % sure we are as ready as we possibly can be. After all, the work , time and money involved in  attending  a ride that is over 10 hours away  from home is nothing to sneeze at. Travel for the better part of an entire day, pay the ridiculous fuel costs, get camp set up , and pay the ride fee, only to find out half way into the ride you don’t have enough horse to complete.?  I would rather not…
Uncertainty is always part of the gig in this sport.  There are no guarantees in endurance. Even if I had a horse that was fit enough to complete a 50 or 100 mile ride, sometimes, things just happen. One bad stumble or stone bruise and that could be it.  Weekend over. There are certain things that even in the best of situations, we can’t always control. 
Maggie’s condition level however,  is  something I can control.

 For some reason I had it in my craw that endurance took respiration into account on P&R, after all , it is called P&R, pulse and respiration… One would think???   After checking the rule book, I realized I was thinking about CTR rules where you have be no more than 9 breaths or less for 15 seconds, or  36 breaths per minute after your 10 minute time period. Anything above this rate will cause you points. Pulse rules are 12 beats or less for 15 seconds at the end of 10 minutes, or  48 beats per minute. Again, anything above this you will have points taken off your score.
According to CTR rules, respiration is definitely an indicator of conditioning but NATRC goes on to state that it can be heavily influenced by the riders actions and care of the horse. Agreed. There are tricks to get a horse to relax at a hold, therein decreasing heart rate and respiraiton. Things like rubbing the horses favorite spot, ears, queing the horse to put their head down, getting lots of water on their neck and jugular in the heat. They  consider respiration important but not as critical as pulse in. Hmmmm... Really???
Interestingly enough, some of the information I read indicated that the rules then do a 180 and go on to say that in a  fatigued horse, it’s one of the indicators of the horses temperature and over all metabolic state.  I found this information in the NATRC  rules conflicting  and a bit misleading.  I  disagree  that respiration is not critical if it’s in fact an indicator of the horses metabolic state. If a horse is teetering on the edge of metabolic failure,  respiration rate is one of  the first signs to be paying attention to. 
 In endurance,  it's a little different but not real concise either. A control judge may take the horses respiration into consideration  when checking the horse over in a hold , but respiration doesn’t really seem to be too heavily weighed  in endurance .That’s not to say that if you come in and your horse is gasping for air or panting, that the judge won’t  have concerns and require you and your horse to hold longer.  The main difference between NATRC and AERC  that I can find regarding respiration is that  there isn’t specific respiration criteria stated in the rules for endurance like there is in Competitive trail. The horse must only  meet the pulse criteria within 30 minutes or less of arrival at all check points.  Criteria is 60 bpm or less.This criteria can also be changed by the ride manager depnding on trails conditions or weather.  In my experience volunteering to take Pulse  & Respirations at rides, the better conditioned horses were well below 60 within a couple minutes of coming into a hold or finish.  As far as what AERC says about respiration? “Respiration should be evaluated on it’s own merit” according to rule L4.1.2. That is about it. Not much. It seems like it's really up to the rider and control judge. In Endurance, the whole idea is that you want your horse down as quickly as possible because it's all about the time in /time out and the clock. Thus the reason you often see endurance riders walking their horses into the hold point, as opposed to CTR's where you have to be trotting in. And yes, if you aren't trotting, they ding you...(learned that lesson the hard way!)

Generally,  I don't get concerned about Maggie's pulse until we hit the 10 minutes mark. As long as she is down in 10 minutes or less , I feel  like she is not being overly exerted. Obviously, the faster she is down the better.

The last two rides I have had on Maggie was Thursday and then today again. Thursday we completed a little over 8 miles.Today we did 11.5 miles. I rode with the HRM both times. On Thursday, "T" was along with his gelding and that was really sending Maggie to the moon with her pulse. Today was much better on our own.

Thursday evenings ride we started out and she was shy rocketing to 180 on the level at a slow trot when she was behind Brego. When I put her up front, she stayed in the 130's. We climbed a hill at a slow shuffle jog and she topped out at 158. She recovered to 110 in 45 seconds.  Put Maggie behind Brego... skyrocket to 190-210-eeeekkkk!  At the end of the ride , We trotted back to the trailer.  I wanted to see just how long it took her to come down.
Total: 4 min 44 sec to drop from 85 bpm to 58.  She hung at 77-78 for a few seconds and even jumped back up to 85 briefly , then dropped to 65- then to 58. Not horrible.
Today, we climbed a few more hills. We were alone. The highest Maggie hit was 163 on a bit of a climb, but she recovered to 113 within just a few seconds. We kept a much more steady pace today than we were able to on Thursday. When we were done, I let her walk back to the trailer only because it was raining,  windy, I had grit in my eye that was bugging the hell out of me  and I was beat down tired from an intense workout of my own yesterday.  Our ride today covered 11.5 miles in 2 hours. We got to the trailer and Maggie was at 77. She dropped to 58 in 2 min and 23 seconds.  Not bad.
Her respiration recoveries were much better on both rides. She is also mostly out of heat. Correlation?? Probably at some level. However, the temps were much cooler on both  Thursday and today's ride than on the ride she was struggling on last week. It was muggy that day and temps were in the high 60's. We have been very cool yet.. heat is going to be a problem for her when it does come.
Over all, my sense is Maggie should be ready. I need to do a few more  hill climbing days and maybe some interval/speed days but barring any major issues, we can keep the ride on the calendar .