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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.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Iron Mountain Jubilee 2016


Over the last several weeks, I have been able to ride Sasha consistently longer and faster. Never any hint of heat or swelling on her right front (the cause of her pull at Black Sheep Boogie in June).

So Wednesday morning, Daniel and I loaded up and headed to Ivanhoe, VA, to participate in the Iron Mountain Jubilee ride. Sasha and I entered the Friday 50 mile ride.

Loading up!


This ride is put on by Nancy Sluys, et al, and is a great ride. Last year, we went for the first time and I did the 30 with Sasha.

This year, we arrived and Daniel quickly decided to park where we had last year. We set up camp and I took Sasha with me on a run along the New River Trail, which the horse camp borders.

Home away from home.


I don't often get to take Sasha with me on a run. I wasn't sure how it would go as I was just going to jog slowly. Much slower than her preferred trot, but faster than she can walk. I used a rope with a loop at the end rather than hardware so a snap wouldn't smack her under the chin and off we went.

A trail head just north of the Ivanhoe Horse Show Grounds.


Sasha followed me very well. It took her awhile to figure out what I was doing, but I tried hard to maintain as even a pace as I could. Sasha jogged along behind, then would walk for several steps until she got almost to the end of the lead rope, then would jog some more. I did not have to tug on her or otherwise keep her going. She adjusted to me quite well.

We turned around after a mile and a quarter and headed back the way we came. Sasha came up by my shoulder now that we were headed back to camp and she was more sure of what we were doing. She still adjusted to my pace and didn't tug on me to get back to camp faster. But I did play a bit with matching steps with her and we would run (no longer jogging) together. It was great fun. I can see how it would be beneficial to run with her for my speed work.

Me and Sasha on our run!


Back at camp, I settled Sasha, took a quick shower and ate some supper. Then we headed over to the early arrivals party for some good talk and music. I am in the middle of training for a half marathon and am craving a lot of sleep, so we left just before 9 PM to finish up chores and go to bed.

Thursday


About 8:30 AM, Daniel dropped me off in Fries, VA, at one end of the New River Trail. I headed north back to Ivanhoe along the trail. I ended up with 12.5 working miles and 13.1 miles overall. It was a beautiful run and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

For a recap of my run with lots of pictures, please go to my running blog and check out the New River Trail - Fries to Ivanhoe post.

One of the views along my run.


After my run, I showered (boy, I'm spoiled!) and sat around chatting with Joe and Daniel until we ate lunch. I was being lazy and finally managed to go to registration. I had already sent in my pre-entry and a deposit, but I had to show Sasha's coggins papers and pay the balance before getting a map, crew directions for the away vet check, a schedule of events and the ever important ride card.

Next came the vet in. I got Sasha and took her up to vet in. She was good to go with a 36 pulse, but A- on Skin Tenting. She'd been drinking well and eating. She's gotten comments on her skin tenting before, so I'm starting to think this is just her, like Tanna's quieter gut sounds almost always get a B (back before they started using that +/- quadrant stuff).

Playing in the water after vet in. We should have done this after the ride, but didn't have time.


Next came the fun chore of deciding what to go to the away vet check. Daniel was going to crew for me. I got to ride with Joe, a good friend of mine, so Daniel agreed to crew for both of us. We piled a lot of stuff by the truck for Daniel to load up. Did I mention I'm spoiled? :-)

After supper, we went to the ride meeting. Pulse 64, holds 38 minutes and 120 seconds (Ask Dr. Nick about that one...) and of course tack off at the vet checks. It was scheduled to be in the upper 80s, so tack off was definitely on the agenda for me. Unless it's really really really cold (which for me and my horses is about 50°), I tend to pull tack anyway to give the horse a good break and the vets a good look at the entire horse without being hampered by the saddle.

The description of the trail marking was scary. Go for 2 miles following orange ribbons, then switch to orange diamonds, then orange ribbons, then blue diamonds, then orange blocks of signs. The 2nd loop was even worse with changing back and forth between Yellow ribbon and orange diamonds and blue diamonds and back again!

The map. The scary directions are on the back.


But honestly, the trail was marked beautifully and every time we changed what color or signage we were following, there was a sign that clearly stated our next section. I never ever pulled out my map the entire day or questioned whether I was on the correct trail. Very well done.

After ride meeting and chores, I went to bed.

Around 2 AM, Daniel nudged me and said, horses loose. I was up on my feet standing in the middle of the living quarters in a heartbeat. I shoved my feet into my shoes and out the door with Daniel right behind me. Sasha was standing on her high-tie fine. Joe's horses were standing in their pen. But sure enough, running hoof beats told the story of multiple loose horses. I headed after one of them who was soon caught. The horse had a halter, but the lady holding him didn't have a lead rope, so I ran back to my trailer to get a lead rope. By the time I got back, the lady was holding TWO horses. But the owner of the first horse came and claimed him, so my lead rope went to the second horse. That horse was reunited with its owner and I headed in a different direction to see if I could help find the third horse I knew was loose. Soon that horse was also returned to its owner and things began to die down. Whew. What excitement! Back to bed for another couple hours of sleep before the 7:00 AM start.

Loop 1

Sasha saddled and ready for the start.


Joe and I found a spot to start our two horses. We were concerned about narrow switchbacks a couple miles from camp. We were both worried our horses would do something stupid and we hoped to get into a group of people that would be sensible and be able to handle tense situations. As it turned out, we ended up attacking that switchback by ourselves. I sent Sasha ahead simply because that's where I was and we walked the narrow trail. Joe's horse, Friday, was a little distracted and that was a bit scary, but Sasha behaved herself beautifully and Friday never actually did anything bad and we found ourselves through the scary spot and onto the hills.

Before the switchback, Sasha was very elevated. She was having a little come-apart because I wouldn't let her run, but it was a very controlled and contained come-apart. The hills quickly settled her into working mode.

The first loop went quickly for me as I chatted with Joe. Soon we were in cow pastures. I was interested to see how that would go since Sasha and I have been working on her courage around cows. It went beautifully! Sasha definitely looked, but no come apart moments. I'm sure it helped that Friday was there as well.

One of the gorgeous views in the range.


After the cow pasture, we had a beautiful little trot through a covered lane and then out into Triple C, the location of the vet check. The loop had taken us just over 2 hours 30 minutes. So a little longer than I had hoped.

I spotted Daniel quickly and headed to our pop up tent beautifully laid out with chairs and fans, hay and feed and saddle racks and filled water buckets with sponges. Daniel is a great crew!! We stripped the tack and headed for the vets.

Sasha got distracted by something and began to spin and holler. It took her a few minutes to calm down to get her pulse read so I could vet her in. Brat. She settled quickly and vetted in well.

Daniel holding the horses during the hold. Very good crew!

Back to the tent to spend the rest of our 38 minutes, 120 seconds hold time. Sasha ate a lot. All of her mash and I ended up giving her some more, then she ate a good amount of hay. I managed to eat a half peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Before I knew it, it was time to saddle up again. We went out on the second loop 6 minutes late. My fault. I always seem to have trouble getting out at my out time.

Loop 2

This was a long long long loop. I had never done this loop and wasn't sure what to expect. The first 5 miles were great. We were moving right along and making good time. It was beautiful and Sasha was in full work mode. Point her in the right direction and just chill. We came out into a horse camp and we walked through it so as not to disturb the campers, then picked up a trot again.

Until we came to THE HILL. Well, the first hill, but boy was this a doozy!! Joe dismounted first and then I did when he said the hill went on aways. 1.5 miles and about 1250 feet of climb. That's about a 15.75% grade for 1.5 miles. I was one tired puppy when I finally climbed back on my horse. At least it was a gravel road and not a rooty, rocky, uneven trail.


Believe it or not, this was the best view I could find from walking up that long long hill.

It was definitely the right move to give the horses that break and walk that hill on our own two feet. They were willing to move out when the footing was good. We were conservative, but moved out when we could. The day was getting hotter, so we used the shade and got out of the sun as soon as possible without being stupid. We didn't want our horses' temperatures to get too high. Both horses did some good breathing, but both would still their breathing after a minute or two rest, so I wasn't too concerned.

After the first big hill, the going was slow and about 10 or 11 miles in, Sasha hit her big mental block. We do a lot of out and back training rides simply because I have to. So Sasha expects us to turn for "home" after 7-8 miles, 10 at the longest. Her work ethic still remained, but her chosen direction (back the way we came) was different than mine (forward around the loop). When she does this on shorter loops, she soon gets the idea that we're headed toward where she wants to go after all and the direction fight ends after just a couple miles. But on such a long loop with no indication that we were getting closer to HER destination, she often tried to change directions at a water stop or a grass stop. Very frustrating for both of us.

About 3/4 through that loop, we came on the best sight. An amazing group of volunteers that had watermelon and refilled our water bottles with COLD water and fed our horses carrots and a full water trough. All in the shade. It was amazing. We stayed about 10 minutes. In hindsight, I wish I'd gotten off her, but I honestly didn't know they were going to be there or that we'd stay that long. So next time I'll hop off the second I get to that spot to make the most of that resting place.

We took off again and soon we were in two-way traffic with the top ten 50 milers going out on their last loop headed back to camp. Even though we didn't go the same direction as those riders, Sasha all the sudden decided I was right and this was the direction to go and we were on the same page again. So much easier to ride her without having to watch for sneak direction changes!

We dismounted at the bottom of the hill below the vet check and hand walked them in. I was in some serious pain. All that water need a new home! Not pleasant to trot or walk! I got my in time, pulled Sasha's saddle and zipped to the nearest porta potty.

When Dr. Kay checked Sasha, I told her I was worried about Sasha's muscles. She asked why. I told her a reluctance to trot downhill. I thought it was more a motivational thing as she didn't start being slightly hesitant to go downhill (she would try to turn around instead) until she decided we were going the wrong way, but this is a tough ride with lots of elevation changes, so I wanted the vet to look.

Dr. Kay was great and paid special attention to her gait and her muscling. She gave Sasha a B on impulsion and attitude, but couldn't find anything to indicate muscle issues. She advised to go careful and hop off on the downhills if I still felt there was a problem.

We had the perfect vet check set up!

The rest of the hold sped by with me swapping the dirty saddle pad for a fresh clean one, packing things up, as much as I thought I could and cramming another peanut butter and jelly sandwich down my throat.

Loop 3


This time we went out 3 minutes past our out time. So we lost 9 total minutes from me being late on the out time. Normally this isn't a big deal and I still didn't think it was a problem. We had 3 hours and 20 minutes to make the return trip to camp. We had done the first loop in 2 hours 40 minutes, so I thought we had plenty of time.

Snap! Nancy Sluys horse. I used to own Snap. These two have never shared a pasture, but Sasha is in love with him anyway.

A couple miles out, we hit another hard climb, so Joe and I dismounted again. This time there was lots of rock. Joe led Friday and I grabbed Friday's tail to help me keep up. Sasha brought up the rear and we made a weird little train up the hill for a good mile. I was very thankful for Friday's help up that hill and felt a little bad that Joe wasn't tailing his own horse. I've got to work on Sasha's tailing skills.

We finally got back on and came to a spring fed water trough. Friday drank deeply, but Sasha just played with it. I made sure she wasn't holding electrolytes, but she still didn't drink. I sponged her and we moved on.

I didn't get off again for the rest of the ride. I was done walking. The terrain opened up enough for some trotting between climbing stretches, so on we went until we finally crested the top and began the gradual descent back into camp for the last 8 miles.

We trotted a good many places maybe we would have walked if we'd had more time. But the mile long climb at the beginning of the loop ate up a LOT of time. We reached the water trough at Highway 94 and I was hoping Sasha would drink, but the water was hot and she refused to drink it so after a couple minutes, we crossed the road and moved on.

After the rocky section, the trail opened up to the rolling curves that are my favorite part of the entire ride. Friday had kicked his trot into high gear. Friday is over 16 hands tall and Sasha is about 14.2. This means his legs are longer and he can trot a lot faster than Sasha. I decided I didn't want her extending the trot for that long to keep up and I didn't want to canter her too much either. So Joe agreed to rock on and I'd either catch him on a walking stretch or I'd see him back at camp.

Eventually, I did catch back up with him and we entered the switchback area together. Joe decided to dismount and walk down, but I stayed mounted and we traversed the trail without incident. Sasha still wouldn't drink out of the creek below, but I sponged a little and we headed back to camp. I glanced at the time and realized we had only 20 minutes to complete! We were just under a mile from camp. I let Sasha move into a nice controlled canter and ate up a bit of that in quick measure. We trotted until we saw the finish line and then cantered in, Joe, then me.

Ten hours, 26 minutes ride time. We only had 14 minutes to spare before we would have been overtime. See how much the 9 minutes I wasted at the vet checks might have cost us? When I'm running on the edge, it's important to get out at my out time. It worked out ok, but this was close. Not my closest, but definitely close.

Daniel had the truck near the vet area, so we stripped the horses and went to sponge them, but found the water was quite warm. Too warm to do any good. We checked the nearby water troughs, but same story. Daniel grabbed our cooler and dumped ice into our water buckets to cool the water and we were able to use that to get the horses down. I had forgotten to get my stethoscope, but it was easy enough to feel Sasha's pulse with my fingers behind her elbow, so could tell she was down. Friday was down also, so we went to vet in.

During the vet out, Daniel trotted Sasha like he usually does. During the exam, the vet told me that Sasha's heart rate jumped several beats HIGHER whenever I came near her. I, bright, cheery person that I am, immediately thought, great, my horse hates me! Later Daniel told me it's just that I make her heart go "pitter pat" with joy. Hah! I like that better. ;-)

Again, Sasha got Bs for impulsion and attitude and her guts were quiet on all 4 quadrants. I figured her guts might be a little quiet since she didn't drink well until the water trough just after the finish line and there hadn't been enough time for that to affect her gut sounds.

The impulsion and attitude. I think she may be starting to relax in vet checks and just not waste energy. Tanna does that very well. So well, he looks like he might not should be ridden, but he's just conserving energy and thinks the trot out is a waste of energy. But I'll keep an eye on it.

Sasha's vet card.


I put Sasha back on her high tie, gave her feed, hay and put her compression socks on. I use EquiCrown compression socks. I've tried other, cheaper solutions that seem to work well for some horses, but these socks work amazingly well for both my horses and I don't have to do standing wraps. I can still feel the leg and it's easy to whip off the socks if I need to. Bonus is both my horses wear the same size, so while I have a full set for each of them in their color (black for Tanna, purple for Sasha), I can mix and match if I need to.

Sasha back at the trailer immediately after the ride before I got her dinner and put her compression socks on.


Our completion award was our picture from Becky Pearman, who takes the most wonderful ride photos! I love this year's picture! Sorry, I don't have the digital version and I know photographers hate pictures of their pictures. Never does the original justice.

After the ride meeting and awards, I walked Sasha for a good bit, watching her move and asking her to trot. She trotted immediately without any further asking. That was very telling to me. If she's a bit tired or sore or sour, she won't trot right away. She'll drag and say, do I have to? But she did it immediately and looked very good. She was over-striding like normal, showing me she had no stiffness in her rear end or pain in her hocks. A soft, kind eye.

I walked her before bed and again around 2 AM. She was energetic and bright and quite bouncy. A little fill in the legs from standing around, but that went away after walking for a minute or two.

Sasha the morning after.


Super pleased with how well Sasha handled that 50! It was tough. It was hot. It was humid. There was a lot of elevation change; some 8000 feet over the 50. That's a lot for my little horse. We don't have mountains to train on around Nashville.

Sasha's work ethic was great! I never had to push her or haze her or even ask twice for a trot. One issue was the struggle of wills in the middle of the 2nd loop to keep her moving the direction I wanted. The other issue was her not drinking much on that 3rd loop. She did drink some out of a water trough, but I would have preferred a lot more.

Thanks to Nancy Sluys and team for a well run ride. I couldn't be happier with how it turned out for us.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Rehab Rides

Well, not all my rides the last couple of weeks have been rehab rides. Serts isn't really rehabbing, but he is coming back into shape after 3 years of being a complete pasture ornament.

Serts

Serts ready for a ride
So let's start with Serts. I've been able to ride him several times in the last 4 weeks. We started with about 3 working miles (walk/trot) and have worked up to 6.5 miles today with a 5.4 mph average! Yay, Serts!

He has always been rather hard to condition because he gets bored really easily. He loves trails and hates the road where I condition from the house. So it's kinda hard to gauge sometimes if he's old and creaky or just bored to tears. I've had him since he was 12 years old (he's 27 now) and his nickname, even back then, was "Old Man." He's been an old man since he was at least 12. If he could yell at kids to get off his lawn, he would.

So I started riding Serts in a saddle instead of bareback (oh, sad day) so I could use the heart rate monitor on him and keep an eye on his heart rate. Of course, that doesn't tell the entire story, so I try to keep an eye on his breathing also. Really, his breathing is probably the most telling thing right now if he's working very hard or not.

I'll continue to condition Serts. I'm not looking to get him into competition again. That ship sailed a long time ago, but it's nice that he looks more fit and when my other 2 were not rideable, that gave me something to do.

Tanna

Tanna ready to ride!



I've been riding Tanna for almost 3 weeks now. Right now, we're doing about 60% walking and 40% trotting over 2.75 miles. Slowly adding distance every week.  And I mean SLOWLY. Like 1/4 mile a week. I aim for an overall average of about 4.5 - 4.7 mph, but less is ok. I get a little concerned when it's over 5.

Tanna likes these rehab rides. We can mosey and eat grass!!


Tanna pulled a shoe on his Friday outing, so he's on the bench until my farrier comes out and puts it back on. I'm not terribly concerned. Right now, rest and babying is what Tanna needs. Although, when I rode Serts and then took Sasha out without taking him today, Tanna followed me around as if he was asking when it was his turn! Awwww.

Sasha

Me and my Sasha girl!



I started riding Sasha exactly 4 weeks after her pull at Black Sheep Boogie. I've ridden her 4 times so far, ranging from 4.4 miles to 6.8 miles in length and in average speed from 4.8 mph to 5.9 mph. She has remained sound under saddle and in the field with no evidence of heat, swelling or any issue on that right front.

Sasha enjoys the premium hay she gets during saddling and unsaddling.


Sasha is the hardest of my 3 to keep to a reasonable speed. She sees no reason to walk. It's beneath her and quite frankly boring. So she has to liven it up with spooks and leaps with double barrel kicks and feigned attempts to bolt when a car passes. And this is my JR horse, folks...I swear she knows the difference, though, and is much more of an angel with Lillie.

My 3 wondering which one I'm "after"

I'm so excited to be able to ride all 3 of my horses. I'm a bit tired and I have the weirdest tan lines from wearing various sleeve and tight lengths, but I'm very happy that right now, all 3 horses seem to be doing well.