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Saturday, October 20, 2018

Meadow Creek Mountain Mingle 25

Had a great week hanging out with Rinnah (niece) and Daniel (husband). We went to the Meadow Creek Mountain Mingle ride location (Meadow Creek Mountain Ranch) on Tuesday evening. Although not far from our place by pigeon, it was about a 3.5 hour drive with the trailer. Got parked and the 2 mares settled, then a great dinner of veggie hot dogs and chips.

2 of the dogs, Gizmo and Y-lee hoping for tidbits from supper!


Wednesday, we kicked around camp, took the horses and dogs for multiple walks, enjoyed some yummy pizza from the on-site eatery for supper, talked to a bunch of people, registered for the ride, attended ride meeting and went to bed at a decent hour.




Thursday we got up in the dark and cold, saddled up and were at the starting line by 8 AM for the 25 mile ride. Rinnah riding Sasha, me riding Dia. Dia's first ever AERC ride and Rinnah's first ride in SIX long years.

Ride map


We started near the back and stayed there for the rest of the ride. I didn't want Dia to get wound up. Turns out, I wished she'd been a little more wound up. She was hard to keep on pace for the first 5 miles. I asked Rinnah to go in front on the uphills because Sasha just attacks those hills and Dia had motivation to keep up. On the trottable areas, though, Dia went in front to give Rinnah some relief from trying to hold Sasha back.

My view for a lot of the ride. :D


We asked the horses to keep moving on the gravel road because we knew we'd have some slow going once we turned off the road. It was slow going, but so gorgeous. We had some great views. Unfortunately, without a zoom lens, it was hard to get any good pictures except the one below, but we saw so many gorgeous views.

So awesome!!!


Once we hit the trot by for the first loop, we only had 3 miles to the vet check. We picked up the pace as we were back on the gravel road again all the way into the vet check. We dismounted and walked the last bit into the check. We came into the small chaotic out vet check, found Daniel and dropped our saddles.

Dia was already at 52 heart rate. Sasha was running without a heart rate monitor, but I knew she would be down if Dia was. Both horses passed their vet check with flying colors. CRI* on Dia was 48/48! I was pleased with that and then Sasha had 40/40!!! We definitely weren't riding these two anywhere close to their edge. We weren't planning on running on the edge, but it was super nice to see such low scores.

Back at our vet check area, I asked Rinnah to sit with the horses and funnel them food after they got done with their Fibre-beet/Omolene 200 mash. They could have chopped hay and more carrots. I also passed Rinnah a Snickers bar and a tube of Pringles. We had planned to have soup, but the jet boil was in the truck down the hill and nobody wanted to go get it. It was fine. The Snickers and Pringles were perfectly acceptable.

Horses eating non-stop


I cleaned up the worst of the sweat gunk off the horses. I put the saddles back on with their saddle pads flipped to the clean side. The air was cool and we were in the shade, so it wasn't a bad thing to have their saddles back on. I left their wool coolers draped over their rear ends to keep them warm during the rest of the 50 minute hold.

There was no porta potty at the out check, but the management had thoughtfully got a travel toilet and pop up shelter and set that up a little away from the main vet check area. It was exactly like the little toilet I have in my small horse trailer and worked great.

I had meant to go out at our out time, but the horses were eating non-stop! Finally, we ran out of everything but a few carrots, so I decided we needed to go. All the other horses had left on their respective loops. The other LD riders back to camp and the 50s out on their 2nd loop. I quickly electrolyted both horses. As expected, Sasha refused to eat after that. But Dia just dropped her head and started cleaning up the chopped hay in our area. What a chow hound! I like it. :D


Getting ready to go out on the second loop


We mounted up and walked down the hill to cross the paved road and back onto the gravel road we'd come in on. Back to trotting up the hill. We did walk, trot, canter up the hill until we ducked back into the woods for a bit before coming back to the gravel road for a very short section and then we were retracing our initial trail back to camp. I think this section of trail was my favorite footing. It was mixed footing. Some you had to walk, but there was a good amount you could trot or even canter if you wanted.

We had the horses walk up the hill to the finish line and dismounted at the top. We walked over to our trailer and dropped our tack. Dia was down again, so we took the horses to pulse in and complete. Rinnah held back to get Sasha's pulse after Dia's because she wanted to be turtle (last place). Both horses vetted out well. Dia had a 52/56 CRI which was good. Sasha had a 60/48 CRI which cracks me up. The higher first reading was because I started Dia trotting out while Sasha was still being vetted which made Sasha's HR go up a bit.

Dia's Vet Card


Rinnah and I both completed. The horses did great. Sasha was AMAZING. This ride barely registered on her radar. Of course, she is a 50 mile horse coming off of a 50 2 weeks ago, so strong and ready to go and we ran a very conservative pace for Dia's sake, but I'm super pleased with Sasha's performance and attitude all day. Rinnah did a great job of rating her for Dia's pace while getting us to the finish line with time to spare.

Dia has a couple of issues we will try to work through. I think the most serious issue was not trotting away from Sasha. I need to be able to trot the horses independently. It's not practical to have the horses trot side by side during vet checks. One must leave the other. Sasha had a little bit of an issue with that, but not nearly the issue Dia had. I had a hard time getting Dia to actually start the trot. She did, but I have got to fix that if I'm going to be able to have Rinnah or Lillie ride with me.



Dia's other main issue is she is very slow to warm up. That may be her and something I will have to manage and incorporate into my ride plans (serious negative splits?). But it took several miles before she would move out without a lot of extra prodding from me. That is not unusual for her in training, but I was hoping it would not be true in an event.

I was very pleased with Dia's eating ethic. She was super serious about eating and drinking! Both during the ride, before the ride and after the ride. That's a great thing in an endurance prospect! She was constantly looking for bites of grass and always grabbed a bite when I let her.



I was also pleased with Dia's demeanor in the crowded vet check. She is a "hold me, I'm scared" kinda pony and initially tried to crowd into my space for comfort, but after a couple of rebuffs, she contented herself with just standing as close as I'd let her. Once food was presented, she was all about that and couldn't care less about the hub-bub around her.

The second loop was fun also. Dia no longer needed a lot of prodding and even surged past Sasha and led for a bit once she realized we were close to camp.



Friday morning, we got up super early and packed up the trailer. We wanted to leave before any rigs might be coming in for the Saturday ride. The roads to get to the ride venue were narrow and we did not want to meet any rigs head on.

Thursday sunset


We got on our way just after 7:30 AM (eastern). We were 45 minutes from home when our truck began spewing coolant. We could smell it and pulled off to a safe place. Luckily, the truck had not overheated. Daniel caught it before that happened.

We called US Rider first, then our local truck shop, alerting them that we would be dropping off our truck. Daniel got a number of a tow guy and called him and got him to head our direction. When US Rider called him back, Daniel said he had somebody coming out, so US Rider called the tow guy and worked out payment.

Once L Train got out to us, he loaded our truck onto the wrecker truck, but couldn't take the horse trailer, too. So he called another tow guy, Rogers Automotive, to come get our trailer. Finally, everything was hooked up and loaded up. Rogers Automotive took us, the dogs and the trailer home while L Train dropped our truck off at our shop.

Waiting for the tow truck for the trailer.


Finally, around 3:30 PM (central), we unloaded the horses at home. They'd been on the trailer for 9 hours for a 3.5-hour trip. But they were both calm as could be. Neither of them had gotten antsy or sweated up. Neither had pawed or made a bunch of noise. Both drank when I offered water while waiting for tow vehicles. Both horses unloaded calmly as if they'd been standing in their stalls at home all day.

Rinnah and I turned the horses into the field. Sasha immediately went to roll, while Dia headed for the water trough. After that, they both went bucking and running in the field, as well they should.

I noted Serts and Tanna looked good and then we loaded up Rinnah's stuff and headed out to return her to her mom. We met Jean in Monterrey for supper. We'd planned on Burger King, but Daniel spotted a little pizza joint nearby, so we decided to eat there instead.

Yummy veggie pizza!


The Pizza Box was a great choice. Such wonderful food and the proprietors were so nice and accommodating. We ordered a bunch of food because we wanted to try it all and hey, pizza is sometimes better the next day! :D The pizza was greasier than Little Caesar's, but not as much as Pizza Hut. It was very yummy. We also ordered breadsticks, cinnamon sticks (served with icing and yummy soft!), and cheese sticks also. This is primarily a take-out joint, but they do have a small seating area with 2 small tables, so we took those over while we waited for our pizza and visited. We did end up with leftovers and sent some home with Rinnah and Jean and took the other for ourselves.

Finally, we headed home for chores. It was a very long day. Much longer than we'd anticipated, but it all ended well enough. Just hope the truck is quick and easy to fix. I won't be able to trailer out to ride until it's home again, but good thing I live next to 200+ miles of horse trails! ;-)

The Meadow Creek Mountain Mingle ride was a very nice first ride. There is definitely room for improvement, but they got so much right! Kudos to them for taking on 3 days worth of rides! I hope to see this ride back on the calendar next year.

grazing during a walk after the ride


All pictures in this post taken by me, Daniel or Rinnah.

*A CRI is a Cardiac Recovery Index. It's determined by taking the horse's heart rate and then trotting the horse for 125 feet away from the vet, then back to the vet. A minute after taking the first reading, the heart rate is taken again. This is expressed as first_reading/second_reading. You're looking for the horse to recover to the same HR or close to it. If the second reading is much higher (4+ bpm) than the first reading, it's likely the horse has some pain or metabolic issue going on that should be monitored. When the first reading is very low (under 50), a higher second reading is often observed simply because it takes awhile to return to a resting heart rate after trotting. This is why I was so pleased with 48/48 and 40/40 scores for my horses.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Dia Says I'm a Big Kid Now!


Super proud of Dia today. She did her longest ride ever!

I know I haven't posted in awhile, so here are the cliff notes. Most of you reading this, probably already know these things, but for giggles. ;)

Back in October, we moved to just outside the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area (affectionately known as BSF). At the same time, we were given the great opportunity to buy Sasha's 4 year old "baby," Dia, which, of course, we (I) did. She was a fall baby and turned 5 in November. She was well started under saddle by Melissa and Mary. All I had to do was give her wet saddle blankets.

I've been working Dia over the last several months and today we went out and did a 20 mile loop in 5 hours. This was her longest ride to date and was a pretty tough ride.

The weather wasn't too bad. In the low 80s, but super humid. Not a surprise for TN in July!
 I got up early, saddled Dia and drove to the Middle Creek Equestrian trail head.


We headed north along Gobbler's Knob trail, past the Gobbler's Knob trail head and to Hatfield Ridge trail. Dia was a little tense, but a lot more relaxed than she has been the last couple weeks. We had a really good, relaxed ride on Thursday on the trails around our house and while she wasn't as relaxed as then, she wasn't very tense.


We headed east along the Hatfield Ridge trail, trotting some and walking some. Dia settled into her work and was good about not spooking too much. The flies were terrible and I spent a LOT of time grabbing horse flies and crushing them to death. The deer flies weren't bad at all, though. I had coated Dia's ears and around her eyes with Swat and that helped keep her face somewhat clear, but we had to keep moving sometimes to get away from the horse flies.

We dropped down to the Station Camp Creek trail that runs from the Big South Fork River to Charit Creek lodge. We headed west on that for a little bit, but then turned south to catch the Fork Ridge Trail. We crossed a creek here and Dia drank deeply. Good little mare!!! She hasn't been drinking on our training rides lately, so I was super pleased. This was just over 12 miles into the ride.

Along the Fork Ridge trail is a deep water hole that you can cross to go up Duncan Hollow Road to Bandy Creek Campground. I paused here and got Dia in up to her belly. Once I settled her down and she had her footing in the shifting sand, I undid my sponge on a leash and sponged her from the saddle for the first time. Dia did look at it sideways, but didn't do anything more than look. I sponged her really well from both sides and praised her for being such a clever, brave mare. Of course, the sponge didn't have to go very far since she was in belly-deep water, but I'm calling that a win! :D



We then continued along the Fork Ridge trail until it split from the hiking trail and a sign at the bottom of a hill advised caution. I'd never been on this trail before, but Daniel had and warned me it was very steep.




Dia and I headed up it slowly. It was definitely steep and even though we haven't had rain, in some spots, it was muddy. There were even switchbacks re-enforced with wooden railings! It was a hard climb, but Dia attacked it for the first half. After that, she was pretty over it, but went along willingly enough, stopping to eat whenever she had the opportunity.



Finally, we reached the top!!! We were both quite happy and we rested at the top for a few minutes before the flies drove me to remount and head on down the trail. The rest of the Fork Ridge trail was pretty easy going and we trotted, cantered and walked that all the way to where the trail turns into Fork Ridge Road and Trail.

The last miles along Fork Ridge road were slow. Dia was tired and so was I. The road is gravel, but with hard-pack underneath and I didn't want to pound on her legs. She's not conditioned to hard-pack or pavement like Tanna was from doing so much road riding. We did trot when we could get off the side of the road, but we walked a lot of it and Dia grazed along the side of the road.

At one point, a Charit Creek Lodge truck came down the road from the opposite direction. The red-bearded driver very nicely pulled to the side and stopped his truck. The road was pretty narrow there and I wasn't sure what Dia would do, but was prepared for her to be silly, even though she was tired. But when he stopped, I was very appreciative. I asked Dia for a trot to move by as quickly as possible as to not slow the man down too much and thanked him as we trotted past. Dia was actually energized by seeing another living soul and cantered for a bit until deciding to back down to a trot.



Finally we made it back to our trailer! Hot, tired, sweaty, bit by flies, but victorious! Dia celebrated with a water bucket with some Omolene 200 and Ultium at the bottom while I cleaned her up.



After we got back home, it was more food and her mama, Sasha, in the next paddock for company before both of them getting turned out in the pasture. Dia did take off at a run when turned out. No back or hindquarter soreness, tight legs, still some energy left.

So pleased with this little mare. She may make an endurance horse yet.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Rhino Wug First Impressions

We've been having rain and snow and sleet and all manner of fun weather here in Northeast Tennessee. We have a very nice 4 stall barn, but only one shelter. This means all 4 horses have been making use of their rain sheets and heavier coats this winter.

I definitely use the barn when the weather is particularly nasty and the 2 geldings are put into stalls every night for Tanna's good. I try to leave the mares out when it's not too bad. They are very energetic, especially 5 year old Dia, and do well with room to move around. Besides, 2 more stalls to clean does not make for fun morning chores.

Earlier this week, I put out a plea on my Facebook page for suggestions on a high neck rain sheet. Last week, both mares ended up with wet shoulders and chests from their Schneiders rain sheets. It's possible the sheets are a size too big for my small Arabian mares and I'm still willing to entertain that possibility, but I wasn't convinced.

My absolute favorite front-runner was the Rambo Wug. I have a heavy weight Rambo Wug for Sasha and I just love it! It's amazing quality, fits her great, keeps her warm and dry in the nastiest sleet storm or 0 degree weather. But it was expensive at $360. The 0 fill Rambo Wug is also expensive at $320.

I saw the Rhino Wug on sale at SmartPak for $150. It was even a cute color, green and blue plaid. I'm not a big fan of the brown/beige plaid of the "normal" Rhino Wug. With free return shipping and half the price of the Rambo Wug, I decided to give it a try. It is similar to the Rambo Wug, but my friends warned me it was cheaper because it's made out of cheaper materials and just is cheaper overall.

I was lucky to receive my Rhino Wug just in time for promised rainy weather over the weekend. So I got Sasha up to the barn during supper to try on the Rhino. I brushed her carefully and put it on.

It's definitely cheaper than the Rambo Wug. It feels more flimsy. Now, granted, this is a 0 fill and my Rambo is a 400g fill, so there's definitely a difference there. But it just felt cheaper over all. I had been warned.

At the end of the day, I decided to keep the Rhino Wug. Sasha will wear it this weekend and we'll see how it does. I don't think I would pay the normal $200 price tag for a Rhino over paying $320 for a Rambo. And if I ever see a Rambo Wug Lite on sale, I might just trample my own mother to get one.

Now for several pictures and my thoughts on each.


This is just the general blanket on her. This is size 69". She's an Arab mare, about 14.2 or 14.3 hands, around 825 pounds. It fits her fairly well from chest to butt. You can see how high up her neck it goes. That's ok by me as long as it doesn't just crumple from its own height. The cut around the front leg concerns me a little bit. Seems like it would inhibit motion and/or rub her shoulder while she's out running around. Standing still like that, it looks adorable though. No concerns with the cut around the rear legs.


Close up of the blanket straps. This is definitely different from the Rambo Wug. Next time I put the Rambo on her, I'll have to get comparable pictures to show the difference. The Rambo has 3 belly straps and is contoured differently. I kinda wish the Rhino had kept that. But...price difference.


This is the tail strap. The Rambo and the Rhino just have a tail strap instead of leg straps. The Rambo came with a really nice heavy plastic covered (read easy to wipe clean) tail strap. The Rhino is just your run of the mill cheap strap. I sorta wish they gave the option to use leg straps, but neither the Rambo nor the Rhino have the inner ring for leg straps. On the Rambo, I just removed the tail strap and it does just fine. But because the Rhino is much lighter weight all around, I decided to try leaving the strap on for now. If I decide to leave it on all the time, I'll see if I can find the Rambo tail strap to put on instead.


The other side of the blanket. Cause. Honestly, it drives me nuts sometimes to see blanket pics, even on manufacturer's sites with just one or two pictures and usually of the same side of the horse.


The front closure is pretty good. Again, not as good as the Rambo. It has double-sided velcro, which I've found to be very effective on the Rambo and on my fly masks. The Rambo has an additional velcro piece on top of the double-sided velcro. My mare might destroy every part of the Rambo, but I'm convinced the chest would still be securely fastened. But the Rambo is a nice quality blanket and my Sasha-mare is not hard on her blankets, so I suspect the Rhino will be ok.


Just another view with the soft velcro securely fastened. Then that piece I'm holding goes over it. For a nice little sandwich effect.


Sandwich closed. So much nicer than the other sheets I have that only have the normal velcro closure.



The last part of the front closure is to fasten the bolt snaps to the ring. There're really no adjustments that can be made here. It either works for your horse or it doesn't. I do like the V shaped neckline and the secure front so when Sasha grazes, the front doesn't open up.

I could have done without the SmartPak logo, but since this color is specific to SmartPak, I guess it's ok so I can remember years from now why it's a pretty blue/green instead of brown.

Overall, the Rhino does feel cheaper and just doesn't have all the niceties of the Rambo, but, hello, I paid less than half for it.

Hopefully, it will last many years.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Retiring Tanna

It's been many months since I blogged on my endurance blog. There's a good reason for that. I haven't been doing much endurance riding.

2017 Endurance Rides So Far


I managed to make it to Biltmore in early May 2017. I entered Sasha in the 50. She was doing amazing, but I missed a short stretch of trail in the middle of the second loop.

The rules allow for missed trail to be made up to be able to still get completion miles (but not top 10 or points). In my opinion, the best way to make up the trail was to go back to the point where I missed trail, do the 2 miles I missed, and then return to camp. But I wasn't about to go do that as it would have been about 12 miles in total to go get the actual trail I missed.

I could possibly have talked to ride management to come up with another solution to allow me to make up 2 miles without the extra 10 to get to the actual trail I missed. However, Biltmore is an incredibly popular ride. This was the first of 2 days of rides. So ride management was dealing with all the competitors on trail, as well as checking in and vetting in all the Saturday competitors. This means ride management was taking care of some 300 horse and rider teams!

Missing trail was entirely my fault (the trail was marked, I just missed it) and I didn't feel that it warranted putting something else onto ride management to figure out how to make it so I could complete. I bring this up so that other competitors that read this might think about whether it's worth bringing an issue to busy ride management. Not that RMs don't want to hear from me, but since it was my fault and not an emergency, I decided it wasn't worth their time.

So I did a rider option pull. Sasha was perfectly ok and got 30+ miles of great conditioning on her. No sign of tie up or any other issues.

My other ride was Powwow Summer Slam. This was a hot and sweaty ride and wasn't all roses. After our completion, Sasha was sore and off as well as had harder time expelling heat after the ride. She was ok, but I wasn't happy with the 36 hours post ride. I definitely reached with her on that one.

Back to Tanna


Tanna had a rough 2016. He started off in January/February with 2 abscesses in 2 different feet. One popped up just as the first one was healing. So his spring conditioning didn't go well.

Tanna at the 2016 Alabama Yellowhammer ride.
Photo by: Unbridled Imagery


We did a 25 mile ride at the March Yellowhammer ride and Tanna was full of himself and ready to go! He was such a maniac, we went out and ran a 4 mile trail after his 25 mile completion; just to take the edge off! He was frustrating, but so much fun and he loved every minute on trail.

By the time Biltmore 2016 rolled around in early May, I decided he was ready for a 50, so we entered the 50. We started the ride with Tanna's best endurance buddy, Kit. These two horses have had so many miles together. They did their first 50 together at the one-time Rendezvous with Destiny ride in 2005. Right from the beginning, these two were buddies and fed off each other's energy and personality. Over the years, usually Kit's rider and I were able to manage their craziness when they were together.

Tanna flying at Biltmore 2016
Photo by: Becky Pearman


But Biltmore 2016 was unusual. Tanna and Kit were so crazy and almost run-aways. For 35+ miles. Finally, I had to separate for the final loop. Unfortunately, damage had already been done. Tanna had some very intermittent off steps during the final loop. I thought we could get through it, but ended up pulled at the finish for right front lameness.

Summer of 2016 was a lazy summer for Tanna. Mostly rehabbing his right front ankle. He had a few vet appointments, some stall rest, gradual pasture turnout and then short (< 3 mile) rides. Tanna had fun. He enjoyed the rides, but also enjoyed being turned out on pasture.

October 8 was a very bad day. I went out to feed and do horse chores. Serts and Sasha came up immediately. Tanna did not. Short story, he had laid open his right front knee. You can read my previous blog post for more info on that. That post ended with surgery in late December.

Tanna was on stall rest for many weeks after surgery. During the week or two after the surgery, we had his EPM titer levels checked and went ahead and treated him with Protazil. Tanna seemed to get better, but still not as good as we'd like. So 2 months later, we treated him with Marquis, with no discernible improvement.

By this time, Tanna was out of his cast. His knee was healing beautifully, with each weekly vet visit revealing new progress. After the major setback in December, there were no more issues with his knee. We took it very slow and it was 13 or 14 weeks after surgery before he was finally allowed to go around without a bandage.

The knee healed. PT began. 3-4 times a week, I would take Tanna through exercises to help build up his rear end and his knee. He was also allowed more and more space until he was out on 2 acres of pasture for several hours a day. The EPM damage made him fairly unstable in his hindquarters, so we were hoping that PT would retrain his nervous system and his muscles. The PT was a good thing, if time-consuming and frustrating for both Tanna and me. Tanna got stronger. But the kicker was: he wasn't getting better.

That was the most frustrating for me. The time and effort would have been worth it, but I saw no benefit besides strength. Tanna still couldn't hold his right hind leg off the ground long enough to be properly trimmed or even pick out his hoof. He still couldn't stand still, constantly stepping out to the side to catch himself when his hindquarters would lean to the right until it was step out or fall. He still couldn't walk or trot straight. There was just no improvement to the neurological symptoms.

So finally, I took Tanna back to the vet. We decided to do a spinal tap. That test came back negative. Tanna did not have an active EPM outbreak.

So. I'm left with Tanna. As he is. For now. Maybe I could take him to a vet school and have them poke and prod and test and run up even more vet bills. Maybe, just maybe, I could get him better. But probably not. Most likely not. Almost assuredly not.

Serts (28, left) and Tanna (23) out on pasture.


So I've retired my heart horse. To live out the rest of his days on pasture. With his best friend of the last 16 years. I will watch him, take care of him, love him. And treasure every last day I have with him until the time comes to let him go.

Because I'm a data junky. Here are Tanna's stats.

14 seasons starting in 2003
2665 endurance miles
285 limited distance miles
60 completions (90% completion rate)
2 100-mile completions (1 pull)
Countless training miles and hours

While I didn't get a completion for Tanna's last endurance ride, Tanna doesn't know that and he had a blast at his last competition. He gave his all at the first ride, the last and all the ones in between. What a horse.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Dealing with a knee wound

When last I put fingers to keyboard on this blog, Sasha was on rest from her tie-up. Tanna was still on rest from his fetlock issue from Biltmore in May. And Serts was still the grumpy old man (which he's been since he was 12, btw) who was firmly in retirement.

Sasha is still on rest, but through no fault of her own. She has shown no side effects of her tie-up episode, but she's just been chilling in the pasture for the most part. I have ridden her a couple times for short distances and she is feisty and ready to go. I just haven't had the time.

I run a good amount and am currently in training for my 2nd marathon. So that takes up a good bit of my time these days.

But I have another issue. Another time-sink that is keeping me from conditioning my endurance horses. And that is Tanna.

On October 8, 2016, I went out to feed the horses. Serts and Sasha came flying and I gave them their breakfast. Tanna did not come right away. That's not entirely unusual. Some days he comes up at his own pace. So I continued doing chores and Tanna still didn't come. I went to fill the water trough. I could see Tanna in the lower pasture, standing, facing away from me. I hollered at him to come in. He looked over his shoulder and hollered back. He did not turn to face me. Red flag.

I ran into the house, told Daniel something was wrong with Tanna, and ran to get a halter and lead rope. Daniel headed toward Tanna. First thing to notice was his front right knee. Sliced open with a pretty good flap. Next was a chunk of flesh gone from his right rear stifle area. Tanna would not move. (Don't worry, I won't show gross pictures on this post.)

I called the vet hospital and the answering service took my message and said I'd get a call back. I was in a bad area for cell service, so 30 minutes after not hearing, I called again, stressing that Tanna wouldn't move. I was scared of joint involvement or broken bones. With him refusing to move, I didn't think it wise to move him without a vet looking at him or I would have loaded him and taken him to the hospital immediately.

Dr. N called and got through to me. He was pretty close and got there, evaluated the leg, gave Tanna some drugs, bandaged up the knee and we loaded him on the trailer. Daniel positioned the trailer to give as little a step up as possible and Tanna loaded without much issue.

I'll skip the long drawn out posts I would have written if I'd written posts all along.

Turns out, no broken bones, no joint involvement! Praise God. We were really lucky. Not as lucky as it not happening, but, you know.

So we started wound treatment. Tanna was in a splint for awhile. He pouted about it for days before finally dealing and learning to swing his leg without bending it. He graduated to a long bandage with no splint, then a smaller bandage and a small paddock attached to his stall.

Finally, the wound progressed so there was no bandage at all. Things seemed to be healing well and going great. The wound on his rear leg healed with only cold hosing.

And then, on December 11, I let Tanna into a little bigger paddock. I was watching him. I wasn't concerned about him. He seemed to be smart and calm.  While mildly trotting around, doing his head toss, he just slipped and fell. Right on the right front knee. He came up favoring the leg. I ran and got him, started to hose the wound and realized it had busted open as bad as the first day.

Daniel was home and helped me bandage the knee and get Tanna into a trailer and off to the vet. It was a Sunday, so I called the answering service for the vet and told them I was bringing Tanna in.

Dr. C saw him and treated him, cleaning and bandaging up the wound. Tanna stayed in the hospital.

On Monday, Dr L and Dr M and Dr C and Dr N and Dr K and a few interns and I all stood around Tanna and discussed options. Option 1) do what we did before; splint, bandage, etc. Option 2) Surgery to close the wound as much as possible, add some skin grafts and put the leg in a cast. Option 3) Standing sedation to try to do as much as possible to clean and close the wound, then splint and bandage.

There was some concern about him coming up out of surgery with a cast. Some horses don't handle that situation well, but Tanna had been in a splint for 2 weeks or so and was at least familiar with the feel of not being able to bend that knee.

We opted for surgery. Then came days of daily bandage changes to check the wound and see if it was ready for surgery. It needed to even out some and get a good blood supply near the surface for the skin grafts to take hold.

8 days after he fell for the second time, Tanna was ready for surgery. I stood with him for an hour or more the morning of his surgery. Just standing with him in the stall.

When it was time, they prepped him by cleaning his hoofs and putting protective boots on the non-injured legs. Then rinsed out his mouth with a hose. And then they gave him some meds and into the room he went to go under anesthesia.

I was allowed to watch the surgery through a window. I wasn't sure I wanted to. When I was left alone, but the blinds were still shut, I sat down and just cried. By the time they had him on the table and wheeled into the room and opened the blinds, I had myself together again. I sat and watched and finally got up and stood next to the window, watching.

For 2 hours I watched. I watched his leg get scrubbed for a long time. I watched his belly go up and down with each breath. I watched the anesthesiologist watching Tanna. Keeping tabs on him. Helping him. I watched one surgeon remove small bits of skin from Tanna's chest. I watched another surgeon debride the wound and stitch it up as much as possible. The edges of the wound came together far more than I would have thought. I watched as the skin grafts were carefully placed in the wound that couldn't be covered by leg skin. I watched the bandage go on. I watched the leg wraps go on. I watched the big thick cast padding go on. I watched the cast go on. And before I knew it, Tanna was being moved into the recovery room to sleep it off.

And while I didn't want to watch and I might not have, it was good for me. In watching, I learned. And by learning, I banished fear. Not that I wasn't still scared. Scared of him waking up and freaking out. But the fear about the surgery itself was gone. And those 2 hours flew by.

I much appreciated Dr M stopping by to talk with me near the end of the surgery. He had stopped into the OR and talked with the surgeons and said things went well.

That was also said when the surgeon updated me after he was sleeping in recovery.

For the next couple of hours, I waited some more. I worried, I wondered, I prayed. Tanna woke up, but wasn't ready to get up. He had some dizziness. He attempted to get up a couple times, but then just laid back down. When he finally did get up, I was told it was in one controlled motion. No panic on his part. After 20 more minutes, I was allowed to peek in on him in the recovery room. He was standing with a wide stance, facing away from the door, but when I stood on tip toe to see inside, he looked back at me for a long time until he finally had to put his head back to neutral. I slipped back to the lobby to wait some more.

I think what freaked me out the most about him coming out of anesthesia was the shaking. He just shook and shook like he was cold. He was still trembling some when I left. It was a totally normal reaction, but it was very disconcerting. They finally let me put a fleece cooler on him. More for me than for him.

He was finally back in his stall by 5 PM, but I wasn't allowed in with him until after 6. I did go peek in at him and talk to him a bit before returning to the lobby. After 6, I slipped in his stall and put my hands on him and talked with him. He was still recovering from the anesthesia and his hard day. He was not allowed food until late that night and he was not amused. I finally left for home and left him in the capable hands of the vet staff.

Today, Tanna was over the effects of the anesthesia. Looking good and bright eyed. He is using his leg with the cast fairly well. Good to have had him splint trained already. He will stay in the hospital for a few more days and then hopefully come home to stall rest.

A note about this post. I did not specifically name the vets involved. While I am super proud of my vets, I do want to respect their privacy. There are also no pictures on this post. I have a ton of pictures. But most of them are either gross or from the vet hospital and again, I want to respect the privacy of the vets and the other clients and their horses.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

AHA Distance Nationals 2016 - The 100 That Wasn't

This year, the AHA Distance Nationals were held near Vinita, OK. The 100 mile championship was on Sunday, September 25, 2016. They traditionally hold an open division, meaning anybody can come and ride the 100, they just don't have to be qualified for the championship division. So this was my opportunity to ride Sasha in her first 100.

I picked her up in September 2014 and every training ride and every competition for the last two years was to get her ready for a 100 mile ride. To get her to this ride and through it to her first completion.

Loaded up to head to OK.


We loaded up early Thursday morning and 12 hours later, pulled into camp. We set up on the small ridge, putting Sasha on her high tie.

Camp.


Daniel discovered our truck had a shot wheel bearing on the right front tire, so called a repair shop about that.

Friday morning, the repair shop showed up to get our truck. It was fixed by 1 PM and Daniel bummed a ride into town to pick it up.

Our truck loaded up to get repaired.


Meanwhile, I worked some, since I had a deadline looming at work. I also took Sasha for many walks throughout the day.

It was really hot, so I took advantage of the shade of the trailer and ran the generator to run a good fan on me and the dogs.



I spent a good amount of time pulling out all the stuff I would need for the vet checks and packing it carefully where I could find it. We had hoped we could spend our hold times at the trailer, but we were about 1/4 mile from the vet check area and decided that was too far.

I also pulled out Sasha's saddle, emptied the saddle pack and repacked that. I checked the saddle over for failure points. And made electrolytes.

Electrolyte syringes. One pre, one post, one for each vet check and one spare.


Sabbath I spent trying to rest as much as possible. I took Sasha for many walks throughout the day. It was still really hot, but the forecast promised rain and cooler temps for Sunday.

Watching riders on other events during one of our walks.


Saturday night, I impatiently waited for the 100 mile ride briefing. Then walked Sasha and the dogs and headed for bed for 5 hours of sleep before the alarm rang at 3:30 AM. Start at 5 AM.

I got ready as normal. We walked Sasha to the water trough to see if she'd drink before saddling her and then finished saddling. I was mounted 15 minutes before the start and did a normal warm up.

When 5 AM came and the trail was open, a couple riders went and then a couple more. Then I left by myself at a mild pace. Sasha was a bit confused as to whether we were going or not. She's used to the wild starts of our SE rides with 25-50 riders in a single distance. There were 8 riders entered in the 100.

About a mile out, I began to think Sasha was not right. She just wasn't moving right. Her steps were choppy and not fluid. She didn't want to really move out. She wasn't pulling at me anymore. I asked her to walk and she did without a fuss. This was a big red flag to me. Her heart rate didn't show too much of a concern. 85 at a walk.

I pulled out my Oregon GPS unit and looked at the maps of the trails I'd added to it. As I thought, we were just at the back of camp. I made the decision to go back and have the vets look at her.

I hopped off to lead Sasha and was again concerned when she didn't try to run past me or dance at the end of her lead rope. She's not horrible, but she can be quite animated and she just wasn't.

I walked up to the vets and told them I thought she was tying up. They checked her rump muscles, but nothing there. We pulled the saddle and immediately found her back muscles were very very hard and tight. Yep, tie up.

I ran and got her wool cooler from the vet check area. I discussed the situation with the vets and decided to have her treated with fluids. Poor Sasha could barely walk and I had to drag her a few feet to get to where they could hang the fluids.

Sasha getting fluids. She ate a good amount of hay while standing there.


Tying up, for my non-horse friends, is like having really severe muscle cramps for a very long time. The muscles get damaged and the debris has to be flushed from the body through the kidneys. This causes a strain on the kidneys. Providing fluids via IV allows the body to flush the debris easier.

The treatment vet ran 20 liters of fluids. About 2 hours after I noticed something was wrong, Sasha peed dark, like a hot chocolate color. The color is myoglobin being released in the urine, an indication of muscle damage. About 40 minutes later, she peed clear and has had normal colored urine ever since. To be safe, we ran another 10 liters through her.

Sasha did get a 1/2 dose of banamine with her IV.

After the fluids were done, it was time to get Sasha back to the trailer, 1/4 mile away. The first 100 feet was really painful, but she slowly loosened up and was able to walk slowly back to the trailer.

Throughout the rest of the day, I walked her every hour. By early afternoon, she was trying to trot a little at the end of the lead line and by dark she seemed very much herself, just moving a tad stiffly. I gave her a 3/4 dose of banamine with her supper to help keep her more comfortable overnight. I did walk her late at night and overnight as well.

Between walks, I worked (that pesky deadline) and packed up the trailer to go home.

In the morning, I gave her more banamine and loaded her on the trailer for the trip home.

Early out. We have a trailer cam to keep an eye on the horses. Very happy to have that.


We drove carefully and unloaded her once at a really nice safe spot we found at an exit. She was moving briskly and looking around. Her normal curious self.

Daniel walking Sasha while I got her some water and then walked the dogs.


At home, I caught Tanna and Serts and tied them to the trailer before unloading Sasha. She ran around the pasture by herself and rolled several times, happy to be home. I put the boys in a separate field until suppertime and then turned them all out together.

Blood work the next morning at my vet showed she still had muscle damage (duh). We'll check her again this week. Assuming her blood work is ok, we'll start her back on controlled exercise and a return to work with blood work along the way.

Sasha bright and chipper at the vet's 52 hours post-tie up. There was a cycling aide station set up across the street. Complete with cheerleaders with pompoms!


Cause? Unknown. There are definitely risk factors for tying up, but I didn't do much different on this ride than I've done at her other rides. We did travel further than normal. And she got an extra day of rest between trailering and riding. I broke her single meal up into 3 smaller meals throughout the day, but I've done that before. She was in heat, but she's been in heat for every single ride.

While we don't know for sure why she tied up, I am going to eliminate her Omolene 100 from her meals the days before a ride. She will still get it at the vet checks mixed into her mash, but she'll get Purina SR in her mashes leading up to the ride. I didn't feed her grain right before the start. She got her last meal at 6 or 7 PM the night before the 5 AM start and had good alfalfa/orchard hay (her normal) in front of her all night.

I also am toying with the idea of riding her the day before rides. I'm not convinced of this one, though. We'll see. I would say I'd run with her, but my runs the day before a ride are usually way longer than I'd want her out.

It was super scary to see Sasha so stiff and sore. But the good news is we caught it early, treated it quickly and there should be no lasting damage. The blood work shows her kidneys are fine. I would like a black and white reason of what happened so I can fix it, but unfortunately, that's not the way endurance works sometimes.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Big South Fork Endurance Ride 2016

This blog post is a little later than I would normally intend, but this past week has been so busy at work trying to make up for being gone to the Big South Fork Endurance ride, this is the first chance I've had to sit down and write about it.

Earlier this year, I made the decision to volunteer at Big South Fork instead of entering the 50. I offered to mark trails and hoped to have 3 horses to help me do that.

The Horses

Tanna did something to his right front at Biltmore in May. He's progressed from stall rest and pasture rest to being worked lightly 2-3 times a week (which I haven't had time for the last 3 weeks...), but he still wasn't up to the mileage required for trail marking. So I left him at home to hang out in the pasture.

Serts is my 27-year-old retired Arabian. He taught my nieces how to ride and did a few LDs. I retired him a few years ago, but was hoping to bring him into condition enough to help me mark 8-10 miles of trails each day I was at Big South Fork. Alas, after getting him going a bit, he dropped too much weight being ridden twice a week at 6 miles each. So I decided he really is retired and left him at home with Tanna to hang out in the pasture.

So that left me Sasha. She has had her challenges this year, but she was fit and sound and ready to go!

The Beginning

The dogs after we arrived at camp. Notice the dog on the cushion is the smallest at 3.5 lbs!

So Tuesday morning, I loaded Sasha in the trailer and Daniel drove off with her. I hopped into our smaller truck and followed. My job this week: mark trail. Daniel's job: camp water & trail water.

We arrived and set up camp where Sasha would get the most shade. The forecast was for the high 80s, low 90s all week. Pretty hot and humid for this ride.

I saddled up and headed out for several hours to mark a 16 mile loop that would be used on Friday and in the 100.

Trail Marking Philosophy

Sasha during a break with her trail marking gear on.

My trail marking philosophy is pretty simple and based on a priority system.

  1. Mark the turns with 3 ribbons on the side of the turn. Try to mark enough before the turn to get a cantering horse to shift gears and direction in time for the turn without ending up in a heap.
  2. Confidence ribbon after the turn. Hang a ribbon down the trail that is visible from the turn.
  3. 2nd confidence ribbon. Hang a ribbon down the trail visible from the last confidence ribbon.
  4. Confidence ribbon if a trail goes off to the right or left, but the trail goes straight. Hang the confidence ribbon just after the intersection to get the eye going that way. If really confusing, use a second confidence ribbon.
  5. Otherwise, put a ribbon up every 1/4 mile even if you think there's nowhere to go.

Using this philosophy, the slower riders should see a ribbon at least every 5 minutes as long as they're moving. The mid-pack riders will see a ribbon every 2-3 minutes and the front runners will only see every other one.

There are other techniques, like, what to do if there are no trees where you want your ribbon. Or if we're allowed to use signs stapled to the trees (X pie plates are my favorite) or if multiple trails come and go through a single 5, 6 or 7 trail intersection. Those are super fun to figure out.

I've missed trail marking and was very happy to have the opportunity to do it again.

Wednesday

Sasha and me ready to go out and mark trail!

Sasha isn't used to being ridden every day. Generally I give her a day off between training rides. But Wednesday morning, I got up, grabbed some breakfast and saddled her again. She was not amused during the saddling process, but once I was mounted, she perked her ears and settled to her job.

Laurel Creek crossing at the bottom of the hill from Jack's Ridge loop.


We headed down the Jack's Ridge straight-away and dropped down to Laurel Creek, marking the black and red trail for Friday and the yellow trail for Saturday. We continued on to the river crossing, then I started marking blue for the Saturday ride and continued with red and black for the Friday ride. Yellow continued across the river and blue came from across the river. I could see blue and yellow ribbons waving in the breeze. Theresa had already been busy.

River crossing. The water was way down due to limited rain.

Sasha and I climbed the long haul up to Duncan Hollow Road until we saw Daniel waiting in the shade. He had come to pick us up so we didn't have to do the last 5ish miles since the rest of the trail was accessible by truck.

Back in camp, I unsaddled and fed Sasha. Then lunch, then Daniel and I headed back out to mark the trail from where he'd picked me up to the finish line. After we marked that, we drove to the spots where the trail met with roads to be sure any markings already put up were still up.

Then I went for a short run near camp.

First Night Ride

Night ride with a headlamp.

Not my first night ride. My first night ride was 8 years ago and I had a horrible accident. But this was Sasha's first night ride. I saddled her up yet again. She again was not amused, but was happy when we got going.

We headed out from camp as the sun was disappearing behind the trees. I wanted the head lamp light to just be there and not startle her by turning it on from pitch black. She's used to headlamps from people handling her on the ground, but to my knowledge never under saddle.

Sunset on trail. The last vestige of light.

The same view the next morning.

On a recent trip to REI, I got a new headlamp that was on a good sale and was able to try it out from horseback. It's a Petzl Reactik+ and it has reactive lighting where it will get brighter when it's dark and looking farther out, but will dim when looking at a map or if it gets a little brighter (like coming out on a gravel road with a good moon). It connects to my phone via Bluetooth to be able to adjust the settings.

I did like the headlamp. It was a bit too bright in the woods. The settings are confusing to me so I wasn't able to fully fix it but I'm happy with it.

Sasha moved out great with the light and wasn't spooky. She did spook fairly hard once, but it was just slamming on the brakes and then moving forward again before I half realized what had happened.

On a side-note, 8 mph in the woods at night feels like flying. :-)

Hungry girl.


On this ride, Sasha began to eat every chance she got. She'd been grazing some on the other 2 rides, but this ride I think she just wasn't sure what I was up to and she'd better eat. I stopped 3 or 4 times and just let her chow down for a few minutes. Good training.

Thursday

Saddled again!

Thursday morning, I got a little later start due to my night ride. But again, I saddled up Sasha to go add some turn ribbons I noticed missing on my night ride. Sasha stood resigned for saddling instead of trying to sidle away. She still had a great attitude and work ethic once I got on her. She just likes making faces at me.

This ride we stayed closer to camp and just did the loops close in, checking markings and adding a few ribbons here and there. Then I was done. I returned to camp and consulted with Eric (ride management) and everything seemed done and taken care of. Wow, very cool!

Sasha got to hang out the rest of the week. Her job was done.

Since I had all afternoon left, I changed into running clothes and had Daniel drop me off near a hiking trail. I originally planned a 5 mile run, but Daniel wanted me to run a couple of specific trails to get the GPS tracks to put on Google Maps. That plan would take me about 8. I was ok with that.

Creek crossing on the red/black and yellow trail.


Some of the trail was really rocky and steep, so it was sort of a hiking run. I ran where I could and hiked when I couldn't.

West Entrance Trail head


I missed one of the trails that Daniel wanted me to get, so I ended up running 10 miles instead of 8. I got a message to him through my inReach satellite communicator to come pick me up at another trail head so I didn't have to run back to camp and add another 3 miles to my run.

I used a single water bottle and refilled it from the creeks with my Sawyer Mini water filter. It was a lot nicer to carry the water filter than multiple bottles of water.

I made a wrong turn before this intersection and had to backtrack.


On one of the trails, I came very close to a black bear who was about 20 feet off the trail. I was running along watching my feet; you know how you do when you're trying not to trip and face plant. I glanced up and off to the side and there he was! I was so shocked to be so close to him. I saw him first (I guess I run with a light step??). Thoughts of what to do if he decided to come my way flitted through my mind when he glanced over his shoulder and freaked out when he saw me. He ran away very fast. No pictures, but that's the closest I've ever been to a bear!

Back at camp, I got a shower and attended the ride meeting.

Daniel was in charge of water for the ride so he was gone a lot the next 2 days taking care of that. I hung out in the vet check and helped write down scores on vet cards.

Pulse tent.

Saturday night, we hung out in the vet check for the 100 mile riders, until a rider came up missing. Daniel and I went out searching for awhile. Finally the rider was found on the wrong trail by another rider and brought back to camp. That could have ended badly. I'm glad it didn't. All of the 100 milers were done by 4 AM, so I headed off for a few hours sleep before getting up to drive home.


Wrap Up


I had a lot of fun at this ride. Probably the most fun I've ever had at a ride without actually entering any of the events. Thanks to Eric and Nelia for letting me mark trail and hang out all week. Thanks to Tamra for all the yummy food. Thanks to Melissa and DeeDee, the vets that got to put up with me the most. Thanks to Samm, Nancy, Jim and Nina for their awesome timing as usual. Thanks to Miles for babysitting water troughs at the Cumberland Valley Trail Head so they wouldn't go missing. (The ride lost 4 water troughs last year due to theft.) There were lots of other volunteers, but these I interacted with the most.

It takes a village, folks. If you're not riding, there's probably a job to do. If you see something not being done, it's probably a lack of workers, not a lack of caring. Approach the ride manager and make it happen.