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 .

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Curse this Weather!!

It has not stopped raining since Monday afternoon. It's 40 degrees with rain and wind. The horses are shed out so as a result, they were quite cold when I went to feed this morning. I had to blanket two of them, one of which was Maggie. She has access to a small loafing shed but it's under water and she won't go in it. The other was my old gelding Rebel who is just older and gets cold. He also has a barn , and was under cover, but is still a bit wet and cold. I threw a boat load of hay at everyone to help  keep them generating heat.  I heard Maggie cough.. I hope she is not catching a cold. I will have to keep her blanketed with alot of food in front of her and keep my fingers crossed.

I am so agitated at this weather. It's so disgusting.... can't get anything done.. exept maybe closet cleaning or vacuuming.. ugghh...

East of here, there were tornado watches... yes, Tornado watches...this is western Montana... we don't get tornadoes... wtf?? Two nights ago,  we had hail, wind, thunder and lightning like it was the end of times... This is our rainy season but this weather pattern seems to have gone above and beyond the norm.

No riding today as scheduled.. too nasty out..  and the rest of the week doesn't look much better.

Somebody send some sunshine.. I have my wood stove going for goodness sakes and it's June!!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Humidity and Heat... bad combination

Today was supposed to be a long ride day.  I was hoping for somewhere between 15-20 miles and I was hoping to move along fairly quickly. Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans.

Maggie was sluggish, not really wanting to move forward consistently like she usually does. She just seemed unhappy and not herself. She was eating well but the first hill we climbed she was not handling it well at all. She was really struggling to catch her breath when we tried trotting. So we walked. We even had to stop a couple of times so she could catch her breath. It wasn't even a huge hill. It's a long hill but a gradual climb. Normally she zooms up this hill fleet of foot. She gets winded but nothing out of the ordinary and within a few minutes, she recovers. Today, she wasn't recovering.She was verye sweaty and it seemed to be that tacky sweat. Not good.  I got off. We walked. I lead her down the steep decent and I turned towards a more level trail to see if she would perk up at all. She even hesitated a couple of times as we came down the hill. She seemed to be struggling getting herself down the hill even.. I was glad to be on my own two feet as she struggled and stumbled her way down. By the time we got down, she was no longer breathing heavy. Her nose seemed a little snotty but it was clear. Otherwise she seemed fine. She had cooled off and was drying. We headed back down the trail. She seemed to perk up a bit and we made our way a few more miles on level ground. We headed back up to the trail that connects to the Pete's Ridge trail. It has some uphill but nothing steep. She trotted along and things seemed normal. For a few minutes. As soon as she had to do a little bit of climbing, she struggled again. I got off again. I let her graze and just watched her for a few minutes. She definitely did not seem herself . It took her some time to catch her breath but finally did. I loosened her girth and we turned around.
Decision was made. We had to head back to the trailer  because something was off with her. Her heart rate was also not recoving well. We had only come 8 miles and she acted like we had gone 20 with hills. It was only in the 60's and wet so the humidity level was higher than usual.

As we made our 4 miles back to the trailer, I could not imagine what was going on with her. Then it dawned on me. I did notice she was displaying signs of coming into heat. She acted JUST like this a month ago when she came into her cycle, in fact she got colicky on me.
I got her back to the trailer. She ate her beet pulp well . No other signs of distress. We loaded up and I ran out to where "T" was training for archery. The archery school training course location is an 80 acre cow pasture with a water tank that Maggie rarely will drink out of it.She dove in and took 5 big gulps. I put her in the round pen out there and let her graze for the next hour until "T" was ready to finish.

I went ahead and electrolyted her when we got home and then she gladly ate it all. It appears that this heat cycle is going to cause some performance issues for her.

She will get most of this week off , unless the weather forecast changes dramatically. We are set to get severe , heavy rain tomorrow and the rest of the week is more rain.