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.


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.


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.


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 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 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.


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.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Lame Update

This week I had a follow-up visit for Tanna and Sasha for a lameness evaluation.
At the vet

Tanna has had 9 1/2 weeks of downtime after his pull at Biltmore. Some of that was stall-bound or in a small paddock, but the last 30 days were out on pasture. He showed brilliantly for the vet. Very free and easy trot. Very fluid, not a hint of an issue. Cleared for light riding! Yay!!!

Riding Tanna for the first time in 9.5 weeks!!

So this week, I rode him 3 times. 3 miles (45-50 minutes) each time. Mostly walking. About 10-15 minutes of light trotting spread out through each workout. Today I rode him for the 3rd time and I decided to back off and only ride him once more this week. He is still sound and looked fine, but I felt like he did too much trotting today with too much animation, so I'm going to be safe and let him rest it out.

Tanna dozing before a ride this week.

I am so happy to be riding Tanna again. I've missed the rhythm of his steps!

Sasha is just now 3 weeks post pull at Black Sheep Boogie. We saw the vet earlier this week and she looked good. Nothing really to see, but we decided to give her 2 more weeks of pasture rest before starting her back to work. So that means another week of rest and back to work for her.

Serts waiting for a ride, decked out in Tanna's saddle.

Serts has been back to work for a bit. I'm slowly giving him more speed. We're still doing about 5 miles at each outing, but we're bumping up the speed and the number of times he gets ridden. He's on the calendar for 2-3 rides each week. I want him in shape for some general trail riding. And it's just good for him to have a job.

I'm cautiously optimistic. With my new training schedule for running a half marathon this fall and working Serts and Tanna and soon Sasha, I'll be a busy, active person.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Endurance Blues (my rendition)

This season has been fraught with challenges. I ended last season with 2 50 miles horses. Fit and happy. I pulled their shoes and gave them approximately 6-8 weeks off before bringing them back. And the trouble started.

Tanna blew an abscess right before the Camp Osborn Boy Scout Powwow ride in early February. This left me with Sasha only to take to do a 50. I had planned to do a 50 there with me on Tanna and Lillie on Sasha. With only Sasha available, I went by myself. We finished that 50, but she was short-striding on the right rear and we managed to squeak out the completion.

Next up was Yellowhammer in mid-March. Should have been plenty of time to work on Sasha and get Tanna legged up after his blown abscess. I planned a 55 and a 50 on Tanna and Sasha respectively. (No, I wasn't leaving Lillie out, she had school obligations and couldn't come!)

Tanna got better from his first abscess and not a week later blew another abscess on another foot! Well, fiddlesticks. I altered his ride from a 50 to a 25 and we went to Yellowhammer anyway.

Sasha started the 55 well, but 16 miles into the first loop came up lame. Right hind. I walked her into the vet check and we were pulled. Some rest and diagnostic work and we ended up injecting her hocks. This kept her out of Biltmore.

Sasha waiting to see our vet after the Yellowhammer pull.

Back to Tanna and Yellowhammer. He was a complete jerk at Yellowhammer and finished the 25 in fine style. I took him out and ran him another 4.5 mile loop to get the willies out. A fine, fit horse, ready to go again. Yahoo. Even with Sasha out, I felt good about Tanna.

Since I was messing about with Sasha and figuring out her issues, I entered Tanna in the 50 at Biltmore. I teamed up with a great friend. We've ridden hundreds, if not thousands, of miles together on these 2 horses. But this time was way different. They were talking, communicating, egging each other on. And on and on. We were not going fast! The horses were just being silly and forward and fighting us. Finally, after two loops, we had to split up and I stayed back at the vet check for an extra 20 minutes to let them go along. Halfway through the last loop, Tanna became intermittently lame and was consistent by the final trot out.

Tanna at the vet, prepping for x-rays on the right front.

Lots of things I could have/should have changed about the Biltmore ride, but I didn't and who knows if it would have changed the outcome. Tanna is still lame from that and is in the middle of a 30 day pasture rest period. The suspect at this point is a collateral ligament injury, but without an MRI, we can't specifically tell. The initial treatment (rest) is the same, so we're doing rest now. The MRI may come later. We'll see.

So, back to Sasha!! She had been on rest and then her hocks injected. Her first big training ride after that was at Biltmore, where we did a 15 mile loop in fine style. She looked and felt great with no hint of lameness or discomfort. Yahoo. Since Tanna was on the disabled list, back to focusing on Sasha.

The next ride was Summer Slam, the same camp and trails as the Powwow ride. So I took Sasha down there and did a really hot 50 on her. She finished really well. A little issue with the heat, but overall, fine style. No hint of lameness. Good to GO! Yay, got my girl back!!

So this past weekend, we headed up to Ohio for the Black Sheep Boogie and entered the 50. Things were going really well. We were riding our own ride, walking the mud, trotting the good terrain. Walking the hills. Settling in for a long, hot day. And 8.5 miles in. Head bob. Hmmm. Really? Maybe just a mis-step. Another 1/4 mile, another few head bobs. Hop off, pick out hooves. Rock in left hind (lame on right front). Didn't think that would be the cause, but maybe, so hopped back on. Head bob. Sigh. We're done. No more. We walk back into camp and pull.

Daniel and Sasha hanging out at Black Sheep Boogie

And now, instead of 2 fit, ready to go 50 mile horses, I have 2 lame horses and a 27 year old pasture puff.

Seriously, it's enough to put me off riding endurance for a bit. I'm getting sick of the vet bills. I'm sick of planning rides I can't go to. Sick of starting a ride and pulling. I try to be careful with my horses. But this makes me think I don't know what I'm doing at all!

I have another appointment with my vet (yay, more bills) and we'll see what's up with Sasha this time.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Spring rides

I've done only 2 rides this spring besides the Pow Wow ride. I've had some challenges along the way that I should have been blogging about, but haven't. So I'll try to get some of that out today.


During the Pow Wow ride in February, I mentioned that Sasha had some trouble with her right hind during her 50 there. She completed and was fit to continue, but was progressing to the point that if we'd been on a 75 or 100, I don't think she would have completed that. I gave her some time off, conditioned her some more and then we went to Yellowhammer in mid-March to do the 55 there.

Sasha before a recent training ride.

At the 55, Sasha came up lame about 16 miles into the first loop. I walked her back into camp and sure enough, right hind again. We pulled, of course, and that was the end of my day.

I got an appointment with my local vet first thing Tuesday morning. He went over her with a fine tooth comb, but by then she was not showing anything specific to her right hind. She was, however, showing signs of hock soreness in both left and right. About the same level of soreness.

I took her home and rested her and lightly worked her, but she never was quite right. One thing I had noticed about Sasha and finally came to the forefront of my mind. She wasn't walking right. Not just short-striding on the trot, but she was short striding at the walk. She normally has a slight over-stride where her hind hoof lands just in front of the hoof print of the front hoof on the same side. As I thought about it, she hadn't been over-striding since before the Pow Wow ride in February.

At the next lameness checkup with my vet, Sasha was still showing hock soreness about the same level as before, so we chose to inject both hocks. After 3 more days of rest, I put her into light work. She was much better. Over-striding again at the walk and much more comfortable under saddle and looking well after each conditioning ride.

Beautiful views at the Biltmore estate. I got to ride Sasha in a training ride the day before I rode Tanna in the 50.

I'm going to try another 50 with Sasha soon, but this time, we are going to go very slow. Harkening back to my early days where I was always the last or in the last 3 to finish. Walk a lot, trot some, a bit of cantering. Enjoy the day and get my money's worth.


Tanna ended up having 2 abscesses back to back that kept him out of conditioning too late to get him into a 50 at Yellowhammer in mid-March. So after my pull with Sasha, I did the 25 mile ride on him the next day. Tanna was an absolute maniac. Very, very forward. He wanted to run the entire time. I managed to keep him to a 4 hour ride time, but after the completion exam, I saddled him back up and we went and ran another 4.5 mile loop until he was more pliable. He wasn't tired, but he was also more ready to pay attention and listen.

We continued conditioning and I took him to Biltmore in early May for a 50. Again, he was very very forward and would not pay much attention to me. It was worse because we rode with a horse that also had very forward energy and they fed off one another. Tanna and I have ridden many miles beside, behind or in front of that horse and this was by far the worst they've ever fed off one another. Finally, after 35 miles, we separated.

Tanna was still very forward, but more controllable on the last loop. Halfway through the loop, I felt him go off on the right front every now and again. I thought he was a little foot sore, so walked more and stayed on the softer ground. Unfortunately, by the time we finished that loop, he was fairly consistently lame on the right front. We got pulled at the finish.

Tanna resting in his stall during his enforced downtime.

I thought abscess, again! But when I took him to my vet, it was not an abscess. He was stalled for 10 days and then was much better. Still off a little, but much better. So my vet injected the coffin joint and now I'm waiting again. In the next few days, I'll put Tanna back into light work and see if he stays sound. If he does, I'll continue to increase his work load slowly. If he goes lame again, we may be looking at tendon damage and life may become more complicated. But first steps first.

Tanna at the vet, about to get X-rays of his right front a few days after the pull.

Because of all these challenges this spring, Lillie has not been able to ride much and hasn't gotten to an event at all. We're hoping things get better so she can get back to riding as well.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Time to focus on riding!!

Over the past several months, I've been focused on my own fitness and my goal of finishing a marathon.

The horses were on break for the first half of that, then Tanna got an abscess, which kept him (and Lillie) away from competing at the Camp Osborn Pow Wow ride. Tanna immediately blew a second abscess on a different hoof 2 weeks after the first, which kept him out of training for a couple more weeks.

Tanna and me at a training ride a couple weeks ago.

Now that my marathon is done and Tanna seems to be ready to rock again, it's time to ride!! I have 4 rides lined up this spring, including, I hope, getting Lillie to do another 50 on Sasha.

Time changes this weekend, so I'm looking forward to lots of good training rides!

Front: Sasha and Lillie
Behind: Tanna and me
A recent training ride.