Saturday, August 22, 2015

Gearing up for Fall Season

We've had a fun summer around here since GERA. Lots of good conditioning rides. Bringing Sasha along slowly in the heat. She has fantastic recoveries and a great attitude. Tanna is also doing well. Both horses got adjusted by our local chiropractor vet and feel ready for the fall season.

Lillie has come out to ride a few times and Rinnah even got her turn to ride Sasha on a training ride and trotted a good bit of it. They are super busy kids and we live a good hour away from each other, so they don't get to ride as often as we all would like.

Some random shots from our summer fun.

Training ride with Tanna

Pandora Saddle Trial

Waiting for Lillie for a training ride.

Rinnah riding Sasha

Rinnah and Sasha again. Aren't they cute??

The girls cleaning up after a training ride.

3 of my favorite kids!

Breakfast time at home

Daniel working on clearing the fence line.

Crupper training for Sasha!

Sasha getting shoes.

Sasha getting a pre-ride snack.

Taking temps is a good idea during hot, humid training rides.

Sasha (left) and Tanna in their pasture.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Hot Is As Hot Does

Hot. The GERA ride was HOT. And humid.

Daniel and I picked up Lillie on Wednesday on the way to the GERA Endurance Ride.

We got there and got parked and the horses settled. Then we sat around and sweated and chatted with the other riders arriving.

Lillie and Sasha after getting settled at camp.
Thursday, Lillie met another 10 year old, Aubrey, and they hung out whenever they could all weekend. Lillie and I set up our vet check, chatted with friends, got registered, chatted with friends, vetted the horses in, chatted with friends.

Tanna being a good endurance horse!
Lillie and Aubrey helping set up the vet check area.
Towing the water truck back to camp.
In the meantime, Daniel was out sweating and getting water for the entire ride. Usually the fire department delivers water to the camp and on trail, but they were unable to at the last minute. Sandy, the ride manager, was able to get some water delivered to camp from one friend and the loan of a large water truck from another. Daniel helped get the pump set up to pump water from the creek into the water truck and then took over running the truck. Unfortunately, right at ride meeting time, I got a call from Daniel to go get him. I left Lillie with Aubrey to listen to the ride meeting and I went to get Daniel.

Turns out the water truck had quit on him. Likely a broken axle. Daniel had me drive our truck and he drove the water truck and I pulled the water truck to just outside of camp where it would be out of the way and easy to get onto a tow truck.

Then, time to figure out how to get water for the next day. Fortunately, all the water troughs on trail were full and there was a good bit of water in camp. I asked Lillie to walk the dogs and the horses while Daniel and I powwowed with Sandy. Finally, it was decided to buy a big water tank.

Friday, Lillie and I started in the back. This was Lillie's first competition on Sasha and we wanted to be sure we could ride our ride and Lillie could control Sasha. Sasha is great, but wants to move out right away.

Lillie didn't want to get her feet wet. Image credit: UnbridledImagery.com 
The first loop went fairly well. It was warm and very, very humid. I was most worried about the river crossing, but Sasha went right in after Tanna. She even drank in the river. I wanted to sponge, but I also didn't want to give Sasha a chance to stop and decide she didn't like the river, so we pressed right on across. Right at the other side, it got a little deeper and Sasha began to lunge to get out. Fortunately, she got on the bank quickly and calmed immediately. No harm done. The first loop took us two hours and 15 minutes. I was very aware of the horses' heart rates and trying to keep their core temps down.

Sasha determined to get out of the water asap. Image credit: UnbridledImagery.com

Sasha drinking out of the river. Image credit: UnbridledImagery.com
Into the vet check, I was happy it only took us 10 minutes to get the horses stripped and cleaned up and over to the pulse box with just me and Lillie working since Daniel was out buying a water tank, filling it and delivering water. Tanna pulsed in at 52. Sasha at 60. Both horses got all As on their cards.

I did scare Dr. Otis when I hollered at Lillie for letting Sasha trot through the tight turn at the far end of the trot out. She knows better and I was very surprised she did it that way. We had a chat about it during the second loop. Trot out. Stop, turn around, square up, trot back. No trotting through a tight turn where the horse might slip and hurt something. She admitted she got distracted and she would do better in the future. Good girl.

The horse massage therapist, Kathy, came over and worked on Sasha during the hold, which allowed me to relax a little and focus on things other than making sure Sasha or Tanna didn't wander off. Both horses were eating pretty well, polishing off a good mash each (ok, Sasha ate half of Tanna's too) and enjoying the alfalfa hay. I had Lillie eat a bag of chips and some fig newtons. Which then I found out she didn't like the fig newtons at a vet check.

We were a little late on our out time for the second loop, but not too terribly bad. We just kept doing the same thing we did on the first loop. Walk up most hills. Canter only when it was flat AND shaded. Which means we didn't canter all that much. Trot the rest. When we were about 3 miles from camp, I realized we had only 55 minutes to make it to camp, get the horses pulsed down and presented. So we got to going. I repeatedly said aloud (to me, but good for Lillie to hear) to not get stupid these last 3 miles. If we were overtime, so be it, but laming up one of the horses or raising their core temp too much would be way worse than just coming in too late to get our completions.

We made it into the vet check at 12:05. We had 25 minutes to strip the horses, get their temp and heart rates down and over to the pulse takers. Sasha had heat just radiating off her and her pulse was in the 80s. I loosened her girth, so I wasn't able to monitor her while we walked to our vet area. Tanna was much cooler to the touch and his heart rate was 55 before I got the saddle pulled off.

Tanna and Sasha sharing the alfalfa hay at the vet check.
Lillie began unhooking everything on Sasha's saddle. She can't really pull it yet without dropping everything on the ground, so I try to grab the saddle. As I threw some water quickly on Tanna so I could move on to Sasha, Angie appeared out of nowhere and asked if she could help. I immediately accepted and asked her to pull Sasha's saddle. Next thing I know, Angie's jumping in to sponge Sasha to get that temp down. Sasha, of course, is looking for anything to eat. I'd forgotten to start her mash, so she was just slobbering on some newly wet beet pulp. I think I need to get Speedibeet or something for her. Or get better organized. I'm not used to a horse that sucks up a mash at a vet check.

We made it over to the pulse takers just 11 minutes after coming into camp. It would have taken several minutes longer without Angie's help. Tanna pulsed in at 48 and Sasha at 56. Both horses vetted out well, with As across the board for Sasha and just a B for Tanna on guts. Not surprising. That horse is usually a B on guts.

I monitored the horses during the rest of the afternoon, but other than just wanting to nap through the heat of the day rather than eat, they were great. Good gut sounds, low heart rates, bright eye. Good job all the way around.

I had considered elevating Tanna and me to the 50, but with the high heat and humidity, I decided to call it a day. I also was happy that I was the one monitoring Sasha during the afternoon. She was fine, but sometimes they'll pass their vet check and then that temp and heart rate just won't continue to drop without some more help.

Many kudos to the horse and rider teams at this ride. It was not an easy ride. 83% completion rate on Friday. A few treatments, but all horses ok.

Now I just need to figure out Lillie's electrolyte needs. She was ok, also, but she took awhile to recover after I had her help me clean up our vet check area. I gave her some of my electrolytes, but they didn't help her. So we'll find something that does. Maybe I could use that SERA blood machine to check HER electrolytes??

Thanks to Sandy and all the ride management team for this ride.


Thursday, April 09, 2015

Spring is really here!

We were scheduled to go to McCulley Farms last week for Sasha and me to do the 25 mile ride, but due to unavoidable issues at home, we didn't. Instead, on Sunday, I rode her out from the house and managed to get in just under 18 miles in 3 hours 30 minutes, including an extra long warm up, cool down and 4 climbs of our training hill.

Around my place, I have to ride on or next to the road. If I want trails, I have to trailer out. Sasha has been learning all about traffic. She's been getting progressively better. She was doing so well, we kept going about 3 miles further than she'd gone out from the house before. Even around the scary big curve. She did really well with the traffic. Although one of the climbs of the hill she hit her running martingale when a car passed us. I think it surprised her, but she behaved and seemed much better about cars after that. Drivers were very courteous today, giving us space and most of them slowing down. Sasha was very, very forward. It was hard to rein her in and keep her to the 5 mph overall average and no more than 10 mph trot.

A running martingale is new to my tack list. When Lillie rode Sasha last, Sasha had a mini bolt with her nose straight up in the air. While I can handle Sasha when she acts like that, I decided to put a running martingale on her when the kids ride her. And before that can happen, I need to ride her in it to be sure I know how she'll react. Most of the time she doesn't hit the martingale. She only hit it once on Sunday early in the ride and managed to keep her nose down the rest of the time. I have the RM adjusted as loose as it will go. One thing that surprised me is the weight of the rings. I use lightweight flat braid reins with biothane ends next to the bit. And the weight of the martingale is definitely noticeable.

From Distance Depot

Sasha's conditioning is going very well. I'm quite pleased with her.

Perky Sasha after her training ride

Tanna is just now getting under saddle again. He had a long hiatus after his 100 mile attempt. I rode him a few times, but he just wasn't quite right. This week, I took him to my vet and had a lameness evaluation done on him to look for pain. He wasn't lame per se. Just not quite right. After the exam indicated hock issues, we decided to go ahead and inject his hocks. Tanna is 21 and has 2400+ miles over 12 seasons. Likely just catching up to him.

Today, I rode him for the first time since the injections and he was my old bouncy guy again. Energetic, happy, forward. The quality of his gait was so much better.

Looking forward to getting to at least a couple AERC rides in the month of May. Hopefully, Tanna will be ready to do a ride by the end of May. Sasha may just get her first 50 in May or June.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Today Was a Good Day

Today was not an idealistic day. Today was an adventure. Today I got to spend time with some of my favorite beings in the world. Ok, so maybe today was an idealistic day.

Yesterday we went to an equestrian camp we've never been to. To ride on trails we'd never been on. Lillie (10) was going to ride Sasha on trail for the first time. When I made the reservations, the forecast was beautiful. 65. Sunny. What we got was anything from a drizzle to a steady rain. And about 58 degrees.

This morning, we talked about just hanging around camp and then heading back home. This morning, I wanted to be a wimp. I convinced myself it would be good for the horses to camp overnight and go home without being ridden. I didn't want to ride in the rain. I asked Lillie. Answer? "I want to ride." So ride we did!

We could have moved out after our customary 10 minute walking warm up. But Lillie was happy just walking on Sasha. Since this was their first trail ride together, I wanted it to be a good experience. Slow distance was just fine. After awhile, the trail turned where we had to walk anyway. Mud, rocks, twists and turns and ups and downs. And rain. Did I mention it was raining?

After a good long walk, we met up with Daniel who had driven out to walk some trails. After we saw him, the going got scary.

We ended up going down some cowboy trails (these were the official trails) that scared me. Deep, sucking mud and steep. Did I mention it was raining? Tanna was very solid and steady. But I was still scared. One slip and...whoops, don't think like that. Breathe. Sasha came sliding behind us. I coached Lillie on how to ask Sasha to tuck her rear end. I don't know if it worked. I couldn't spare much time to look back. Down at the bottom. Wow, up the other side. Ok, breathe, here we go. No, Tanna, you can't rush this; we have to walk. Go, baby, go. No, Lillie, don't let her past me. Make her walk. Good girl, Sasha. Whew, we made it! We agreed we did NOT want to do that again.

We headed down the trail. Soon after there was another similar section, but a lot shorter. Into a creek. Tanna refused to go further down the creek due to very slippery rocks and a drop down. He does not refuse me often. He will try his hardest for me. Sometimes I fail him. Today, I listened. He said no, so I agreed.

However, turning around meant going back the way we came. Back down the steep, muddy, long incline. And back up the other side. Lillie and I discussed it. We really had no option. So we took a deep breath (or several), adjusted our helmets and pointed our horses back the way we came. Did I mention it was raining? And I hate heights? Tevis (not that this compares to Tevis in any way shape or form) has never appealed to me because I hate heights. And Sasha had likely never seen this type of terrain anywhere? Protect us, Lord.

Over the side we went. Down, down, down. Tuck that rear end. Control the descent. But don't stop. Come on, little mare, you can do it. (What on earth would I do if she refused to follow Tanna??) We all reached the bottom in one piece. Deep breath, just have to get up that hill, then we're fine. Ok, let's go. Don't let her blast up, but keep her moving. Grab mane, center my weight, come on, Tanna, up, up. What a good boy. Come on, Sasha, keep coming, girl. Wahoo!!! The top!! We are done! Thank you, Lord! The rest is a cakewalk compared to that.

I think those hills would not be nearly as scary without the mud. Maybe I just need to go back and do them over and over until I'm no longer scared of them. Maybe in July. When it hasn't rained in 45 days.

Now, lots of you from all over the country will likely be laughing your heads off at my fear. Ok. That's ok. I'm not afraid to admit I was afraid. I am super duper pleased with my horses. Sasha could have quit on us. That was some hard stuff for her. She did stop once or twice on some of the easier sections, but we got her going again. I'm not sure I could have ridden her through that by myself. I believe she needed Tanna to help show her how to handle herself in that terrain. Tanna was great and used his body as a block to help control her descent. Now if she'd lost her footing, nothing to do about that, but he controlled the speed downhill and made her back off and not rush it. Rushing it would have been bad.

We were all happy to get back to the trailer. To dry clothes (coolers for the horses), good food and retelling of the events of the day. After all that, Lillie still says she wants to keep riding Sasha. It was a good day.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

It's been a long winter!

Hoping that now that daylight saving time has come, the good weather is not far behind!

We had a period of 3 weeks or more where we were pretty much home-bound. Nashville does not do ice and snow!

Sasha, the new mare, has settled in nicely. I did a 25 mile ride with her in November at Blackwater Boogie. She did really well for being a little mare just out of the hunter/jumper arena. That was maybe her 20th trail ride ever. She ate extremely well. I'm so used to Tanna being so picky, it's refreshing to have the mare almost knock me over to get to her food.

Tanna has been resting since his 100 mile attempt and seems ready to get back to work.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

2014 AERC National Championship 100 Mile Ride

Daniel and I spent all day Sunday prepping our new trailer (picked up Saturday night!) for the trip to TX. 540-some-odd miles. Destination: AERC National Championship, Priefert Ranch, Mount Pleasant, TX.

Monday morning, Daniel zipped off to the tire shop to replace the trailer spare tire while I hauled hay and finished 100 little chores.

The new trailer!!
Finally on the road with Tanna, entered in the 100-mile championship and Sasha, my new endurance prospect, along to be Tanna's buddy horse and get some more experiences.

Trailer cam had to be added before we could leave.
We arrived at camp around 7 PM and were met by the ride manager and her husband and led to where we were going to camp. Being the first non-management/volunteer rig to arrive, we got our pick of the parking. Daniel parked right across from where the trails enter and leave camp.

271 overpass at night

We were able to quickly set up camp, putting out the high ties, hay bags and water buckets. We walked the horses for a good hour, scoping out the start of the trail and walking the last mile of the loops.

Tuesday, I decided to ride Sasha. I attempted to pre-ride the trail, but after the 3rd gate in 1/4 mile and lots of cows in the pastures (this IS a working ranch after all!!), I decided to retrace my steps and left the pastures behind.

271 overpass

All but one of the loops out of camp passed under the new highway 271 and all the loops came back that way. When I rode Sasha out that direction, I had dismounted to walk her under it. The thump-thump-thumping overhead scared her pretty badly, so I was glad to have dismounted. Since I decided to not pre-ride the trail after all, I spent 45-60 minutes getting Sasha used to the overpass. First we stood back and I let her watch the trucks and cars going overhead. And she did look. After she was bored, I moved her closer until we were under the overpass. We did leading games for a good long while under the overpass until her reactions were mild and her heart rate reasonable.

Sasha and I finished up our ride by doing 4 or 5 laps around the field that made up the last mile for all trails.

I got a quick shower and walked the horses before my boss showed up to see how we camp and how I spend my off time. Daniel and I showed off our new trailer and then we all headed to eat at the nearby Chili's.

Sasha after her 15 mile training ride.
Wednesday, I rode Sasha again. I dispensed with the idea of trying to open the gates and just stayed in the large field next to camp. Round and round and round we went...for over 15 miles. Good enough recovery and performance to make me think she might be able to try a 25 mile ride in the near future.

Wednesday afternoon, we checked in for the 100 mile ride and vetted in. We zipped off to the nearby Walmart for a few last-minute things and back for the ride meeting.

Thursday morning, alarm at 4:30, mounted by 5:45, start at 6 AM in the dark. I used my "nighttime" helmet that has a light mounted to it. Also had a Garmin Virb camera mounted.

Loops 26 miles, 25 miles, 15, 10, 11, 11. With hold times 50, 50, 40, 30, 30.

The riders all started at a walk. We soon picked up a slow trot and stayed together for awhile, but then we all begin to separate. By the time we reached the first gate into the ranch, Tanna and I had separated to the back. Tanna does much better on his own in these situations. Has a much better attitude and pays attention to his feet.

I have to pause here and comment on the gates. We went through a lot of gates. All day long, Gate after gate after gate. As mentioned earlier, this is a working cattle ranch, so gates have to be shut or opened as dictated by the ranch. While I had to open those gates myself when I rode earlier in the week, during the ride these gates were manned by a very nice group of Future Farmers of America kids. All but one of the gates were promptly opened for me with a smile. The other gate I actually had to get myself. ;-) The kids were sheepishly apologetic when they realized I had gotten it myself, but they weren't expecting me so soon. :)

It was a little freaky riding in the dark on trails I'd never ever been on. The other night rides I've done, I've known the trails very well in the daylight. But after awhile, I relaxed and enjoyed myself. At one point, we passed a herd of cows just a few feet to our left. They were all staring at us. Freaky reflections from my headlamp. Fortunately, Tanna did not even flinch.

The red loop
The first loop was actually 2 loops. The 11 mile loop, dismount and trot for the vets and then the 15 mile loop. When Tanna and I finished the trot out, I put him on his high tie while I switched helmets. To my surprise, Tanna was eating. So I waited for about 10 minutes until he decided he was done eating.

Then I remounted and off for the remainder of the 1st loop, which was the 15 mile loop. We were pretty much by ourselves for the entire ride. We'd occasionally see other riders on other parts of the trail, but we didn't ride with anybody else.

At the vet check, we pulled tack and took Tanna right to the vet. Good vet scores, everything was a go. Back to the trailer where Tanna proceeded to eat heartily, including his beet pulp. He doesn't normally eat beet pulp during a ride, but I was happy to see him doing it.

When I pulled his tack, I noticed he had a little bit of hair disturbance on his right loin. So I decided to put some Show Sheen along the back of the saddle pad. But when I was remounted and headed to the release timer to go back on trail, I realized I hadn't done that. So Daniel told me to go ahead and he'd get the show sheen for when I passed back by the trailer on the way out on my loop. There was a little mix up in my out time, so it took me longer to be released than we thought, so Daniel just brought the Show Sheen and my mounting block over to the release timer. I was cleared to go out on trail, but I hopped off and lifted the saddle to spray Show Sheen under it along the back edge to reduce friction. Remounted, I headed out on the next long loop.

The blue loop
This was a very long loop. We saw some new trail that I enjoyed. I even saw some donkeys hiding among the cows. Tanna hit the 40 mile blues where he was confused why we were retracing our steps and not exactly happy we were alone. I let him mosey for awhile. It was warm and I don't usually clip for a single day. I did ask him to move out when it was breezy and/or in the shade. After awhile, (as he usually does), he perked up and moved out on his own again.

Back at the vet check, I noticed Tanna a little ticklish in his loin area, but then didn't get any reaction. I asked the vet to pay special attention to the area, but nothing was really found at that point. In hindsight, I think he was guarding that area. He's a tough little guy and handles pain well. Maybe too well sometimes.

Tanna was still eating well. Going back and forth between his mash (beet pulp, alfalfa pellets and Omolene 100), straight Omolene 100, alfalfa hay and carrots. I quickly braided up his mane for the next 15 mile loop. I was planning to take it easy on this next loop and hopefully pick up the pace after the weather turned cool again.

Out on the 15 mile loop. This was the same 15 mile loop we'd done during the first long loop. Most of it was very nice, but there was one section I was very very happy to tell Tanna we would not have to do again. Tanna didn't seem to like it very much either.

During this loop, Tanna's HR monitor showed brief periods of high heart rate, but usually, it would return to a normal rate. I thought at the time that it was electrode placement or maybe the battery needed to be changed. Still possible, but in light of the ending, I wonder if maybe he was showing some pain.

This loop we had some cows standing in the road. They just stared and stared at us until we got within about 20 feet, then headed down the road in front of us.

Back at the vet check, Tanna was reacting more on his back than he had previously. Too far back to be saddle related. We took him to the vet, but I had a sinking feeling we were done. Tanna trotted out slightly lame. 54/54 cri though. They held his card and we hand walked him and fed him and kept him warm, but when we re-presented, I watched Daniel trot him out and Tanna did not move right. Before Daniel got to the turn around, I had decided I was pulling him if the vets didn't. But as Tanna trotted back, I could see Tanna was off. Verdict was left hind, but high up, likely in the loins where he had been reacting slightly earlier. I think it started in the right loin, then the left had to compensate too much for too long.

So our journey ended at 67 miles. I was disappointed, but pulling was the exact right thing to do. By Friday morning, Tanna was only slightly reacting when his back was palpitated and by the time we loaded him in the trailer to go home the next day, there was no reaction and no fill in his legs. A good recovery.

From what I understand from talking to other riders and vets, the terrain likely played a role in the pulls. Other riders were pulled for similar issues. Lameness with the cause suspected or pinpointed high in the back end. My personal thought is that the terrain caused the problem because while it was dry, the ground had dried in ruts and caused instability for the horses that didn't seem readily apparent.

Riders from the back, front and middle were pulled, so it's not likely that speed caused this issue.

I am glad we went and tried. Disappointed that we did not finish. But so glad Tanna is good to go for another day.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Playing Catch Up (Again)

Ok, so it's been a long time. I have this thought that every blog post should be insightful and wordy. I should get over that and just keep things simple and quick. Mhmm.

Well, so quickly.

This season has turned out very differently than planned.

I had planned to do Lillie's first 50 this year. Maybe even Rinnah's. Unfortunately, their horse, Rain, was not suitable for us and we returned him to his owner (he was on lease). So the girls have not been able to compete this season.

I had planned to do Snap's first AERC ride(s) this season. Instead, I woke up one day and realized that I am not a horse trainer, I do not play one on TV and I really didn't need to be breaking Snap. So I made a tough decision to sell him. So he is gone.

We are currently evaluating a mare for the new addition to the herd. If we buy her, I will do an intro later. If not, well, then I'm still looking for that perfect horse. I decided that 4 horses was a little much, so we just have the one spot in the pasture.

Tanna has had a decent season. We have completed 3 50s so far this year. We started a 4th one at Biltmore in July. He was rocking right along when he came up lame just before the 2nd vet check. It turned out to be an abscess. So I went from being disappointed to being amazed that Tanna did 29 miles with a brewing abscess. He really does give and give.

Serts is hanging out being a good retiree.