Thursday, November 25, 2010

Broxton Bridge, Nov 2010...The ride

Start at 7 AM means a 5 AM wake-up alarm. Yes, it does take me 2 hours to wake up and get ready to ride. It was COLD! About 36 degrees. We did have an electric site, though, and I had brought a small space heater, so it was a luxury to have some warmth while dressing. But it was still cold.

When Daniel and I took Tanna to weigh him at the SERA scales, I decided it wasn't worth risking when we noticed the sheen of frost/ice on the mat covering the scales! Just my luck for Tanna to make it to the day of the ride only to slip on the mat and not be able to start!

Back to the trailer for preparations. I dressed in many layers and my trusty winter tights, then saddled Tanna. I really like the Hi Tie we got. I did have to tie Tanna to the trailer until I got the saddle on him as he wouldn't stand still for saddling. But then he was allowed to be on the Hi Tie with more room to move around.

I had not had much time during the week to fuss and worry about ride day. So I was strangely relaxed about the whole thing. At 6:43, Daniel mentioned the time and I hurried to get mounted and headed to the start timers.

Our most excellent timing staff was waiting in the cold for my number. 34. The number was dutifully painted on Tanna's rump, but he was wearing a rump rug that obviously obscured this number and rubbed it off so by the time the rump rug came off later in the ride, you couldn't read it anyway.

I milled around with the other riders until the controlled start began. Joe was leading us out on his red mule. I waited for a bit and finally followed the crowd. During the mile long controlled start, we passed a few people just because I didn't like the way Tanna or the other horse was acting.

After we crossed the main road (601), the trail was clear. I waved and called to Susan and Joe and headed down the trail. We were on our way. Tanna was beside himself with excitement and tried to break into a canter every other stride. I tried to find a pocket to put him in where we weren't with other horses, but it took awhile and I let several horses pass us while looking for that sweet spot. Finally, we got into a place where he was a bit more controllable. There were maybe 4 riders behind me and 31 in front of me.

My training schedule, and thus my ride plan, was to work for 4 minutes and then walk until Tanna's HR dropped below 100 bpm. I knew this wouldn't work as well for the first part of the ride until his adrenaline rush broke.

Tanna gets to a point, usually within an hour of the start, where he'll take a deep breath and go to work sensibly instead of running like a moron on adrenaline. When he reaches that point, Tanna's HR will be normal. But until then, I decided to have him work for 4 minutes and walk for 1 minute since I couldn't rely on the HR.

The 4 minute sessions were halting for awhile as I would ask him to go, he'd attempt to canter, I would pull him back to a trot, sometimes even a stop and then repeat. The 1 minute "breaks" were a battle to keep him somewhere between a dead stop and 10 mph. He thought if he couldn't go fast, he'd just stop until I saw the light. At least I didn't have to worry about the footing beyond trying to stay out of the churned up sand on the inside of the many turns.

We reached the spotter the first time where where there was water. This was about 7 miles into the ride. There was a spotter and a ham radio operator relaying our numbers back to base camp. Here we were to do a small loop back to the spotter before continuing on. Several riders were coming off the small loop, so there were about 6 horses there at once. I called out my number and asked Tanna if he wanted water. He didn't, but he did stretch out to pee. After another minute or two of standing, we headed out on our loop.

Tanna is very good about heading down the proper trail. He knows that to catch the horses we were just with, he has to do the trail right. I taught him that years ago during out and back loops. After passing many riders going the opposite direction, I continued to encourage Tanna and when we got to the turn around spot, I would let him go full out to catch and pass riders. Maybe not the brightest move, but it sure taught him that if he kept going the right way and fast, he'd catch the other horses. Makes rides where you can see other horses going different directions much easier!

Around the loop, back to the spotter, out to the road, turn right and head on into the second half of the 20 mile loop. At this point, I thought Tanna should have broken his adrenaline rush by now. But he hadn't. His HR was still erratic, high and his behavior was irritating. He kept trying to bolt every other second. Finally, I hopped off and walked with him for about a half mile to get him to calm down. When I got back on, he was a bit more controllable, but his HR was still much higher than I liked. I decided to keep to the 4 minutes work, 1 minute walk for the rest of the loop.

We were moving right along, but with Tanna's high HR and erratic gait, I began to worry that he'd pulled something and was lame. I hopped off and watched him walk and poked and prodded him to see if I could find a pain source. He was jumping around so much it was hard to tell. I was about 5 miles from the end of the loop, so I hopped back on and headed on.

When I got close to camp, I hopped off and walked the last bit in. We'd done the loop in 2 hours 36 minutes. Definitely a fast trail!

Tanna's HR was still in the 80s when I got to Laurie, the in and out timer. I saw Joe and shared with him my concern that Tanna was lame and hiding it in adrenaline. He asked if he could help with anything, but I distractedly said no, thanks, I just need to get him to the vets. Maybe he'd calm down and we'd be able to tell if he was lame. Pulled for lameness at a groomed ride with no elevation? Definitely an anomaly.

I headed to our trailer to pull Tanna's tack. I didn't have to, they had said first check we could leave our saddles on, but I decided if Tanna was lame, it could be in the back, so I wanted the vet to see everything. Daniel appeared and helped me strip everything off and we threw Serts' cooler over Tanna. It's a bit bigger than Tanna's and covers more of the back of his legs like the hamstrings.

We were able to snag Dr. Otis for the vet check. Since this was Tanna's comeback ride, I wanted Dr. Otis or Dr. Ken to check him as they know me and him and I wanted anything out of the ordinary to be brought to my attention immediately. As Daniel trotted Tanna out, I shared my concerns that Tanna might hiding a lameness with adrenaline. Dr. Otis said he didn't see anything, so a big sigh of relief.

Back at the trailer, I put Tanna on his hi tie, but he just stood there, not eating the yummy hay or drinking the water. I gave him some grain, but he just nibbled at that, too. Finally I put him in the pen with Serts, which was a good move. Tanna drank a good amount of water. Usually, he doesn't drink until we're out on the second loop. He also ate some hay with Serts. Not a ton, but some.

Convinced Tanna was ok, I slipped into the camper to change my clothes as the day was warming up fast. I asked Daniel to change the heart rate monitor battery to make sure that wasn't a reason for high heart rates.

I went out on my second loop late. I generally don't get out on my out times anyway, but I was a good 15 minutes late. Tanna was eating when I should have started putting the saddle on, but I decided to let him eat instead. We'd done the 20 mile loop at a faster pace than I'd planned, so I figured we had the time.

This next loop was 15 miles. Blue ribbons. Back across 601 basically doing the 20 mile loop backwards. With a few twists and less mileage, of course. Tanna was still trotting strong, but now he was much more controllable and his HR was reasonable. So he even got to canter some this loop.

We were alone, which is right where I wanted to be. I pulled out my iPod and my single ear piece and we went on down the trail. I was able to do the 4 minutes work and then walk until his HR dropped below 100.

Not too far into the loop, I caught up with a couple of riders. I hung back, letting them get further ahead of me until it was convenient to pass them where they wouldn't just come up on me during one of our walking sessions. I don't like to play leap frog.

We did that 15 mile loop in 2 hours 5 minutes. And that included the 15 minutes or so I was late going out. So about an hour 50 minutes of actual work time.

I took Tanna back to the trailer to strip his tack and then to the vet check where we got Dr. Ken. Daniel again appeared and trotted him out for me. Everything looked good! Back to the trailer again for the hold. This time I immediately put Tanna in the pen with Serts, but closed the dividing panel so I could feed Tanna grain and such and Serts wouldn't eat it. Tanna ate well this check and I had a bit more time to just relax. I quickly braided his mane to keep it off his neck as it had warmed up nicely. A trick I learned in April when we needed to keep his mane off his neck catheters.

Our 3rd and last loop was the black/white loop that I had marked on Monday. I went out a little late again. I just haven't mastered the art of getting out on my out time!

We started out on our own again, but about 4 or 5 miles out, we came out onto a field where the trail wound up and down and around it for 4 miles or so. I could see 9 other horses on the field, all at different spots in the trail. Two riders were not too far ahead of me. Within 10 minutes, we passed those riders and set our sights on the next 2. We neared those at the water. I let them go on while Tanna drank and I sponged him a little. Then we ran them down and passed them.

Tanna was strong and responsive with good heart rates. I was still working him for 4 minutes and walking for his HR to drop.

Coming out of the field, 2 more riders were ahead of me just before the spotters. I passed them, called my number to the spotters and kept trucking on. Tanna was having such fun passing the other riders. Strong and energetic and willing. Hard to believe we'd gone 45 miles at this point!

We were chasing 2 more riders, but we were at the end of our 4 minute work and I had to pull Tanna up and have him walk. It took a bit to get him to calm down and let his HR drop, but finally we were able to go on again. We caught those 2 riders as well as 2 more eating grass. I knew we were not far from camp and didn't bother to stop. We motored past at a trot, then Tanna broke into a canter.

Two of those riders we passed eating grass were hot on our heels, so I let Tanna canter. I still insisted on him walking every 4 minutes and that added to the "drama" of the riders about to catch up with us. We flew around the lake headed toward the old Civil War-era houses when I saw Daniel out to try to get a picture of me like I had asked. Usually, I'll stop and chat with him, but with the other riders hot on my heels (I could see them across the small lake), I yelled a greeting and said I'd see him back at camp and kept on.

We curved around on the road and then we were on the airstrip to the left of the pink flags. Tanna was cantering at a good solid pace with a good HR. Near the end of the airstrip, I glanced back and the riders were far enough behind me to walk some without putting too much pressure on. We walked and then trotted across the bridge and angled to the left toward the finish line instead of to the right like the other loops.

I kept Tanna to a trot until we rounded the last bend and then I asked for the canter. He immediately complied and we cantered in that last glorious quarter mile. Head up, ears perked, strong canter, balanced. A moment to treasure forever as we crossed the finish line. Tanna was still my endurance horse!!!

Daniel got some good shots as we crossed the finish line. What a rush. I was thrilled. Laurie was there waiting to write on my card. Finish time 3:42. We'd done that last loop in an hour 51 minutes. 7 hours 2 minutes ride time.

I walked Tanna to the trailer and sprayed him down with the hose. It was faster and easier than sponging. I tossed his cooler over him and Daniel and I took him for his completion exam. Dr. Ken did us the honor of the final exam and declared Tanna fit to continue. Very fit to continue. He definitely could have done another 25 or 50 miles right then.

Instead, I took him back to his pen and Serts. Then I began to clean things up and tidy up to be able to head back home.

While in the trailer, I watched Tanna roll in his cooler. Ugh. But coolers wash. After Tanna was done rolling, Serts decided to roll in the same place. He rolled completely over and got his leg stuck under the panels. Startled, I threw the back door of the trailer open and lept out, talking to Serts to calm him. Unfortunately, Serts decided it was time to get up and attempted just that. I wanted to help, but just backed up and watched as there is nothing really to do when a horse is struggling in a fence. If he'd laid calmly, I might have been able to help him, but not that struggle. I was dimly aware that Tanna was behind me to the right and out of danger.

After what seemed a very long time (really only a few seconds), Serts was free of the fence, but holding his left hind leg up. I calmed him and reached to pet him. He put some weight on the leg and I became aware of other people around. Tamra appeared out of nowhere suggesting for me to take Serts to the vets right away. I agreed and went looking for a halter and lead rope. I left Tanna in the pen while Tamra came with me to the vet.

Dr. DeeDee was there and available to look at him. Serts was bearing weight and looked not bad. He had 3 scrapes on his shin and some swelling already. He became a jerk and wouldn't stand still and tried to head butt me. We laughed at him. Tamra suggested wrapping the leg and Dr. DeeDee said to give Serts some banamine before trailering him the next day. Tamra gave me some poultice to put on the leg before wrapping it. I had some standing wraps and quilts from Tanna's stint in the hospital and had packed them at the last minute.

The next morning, I re-wrapped Serts' leg. It looked really good with no swelling. I gave him banamine before we loaded him for the trip home. Tanna got his back legs wrapped to avoid stocking up.

What a great experience. The trail work was a lot of work, but very satisfying. I always enjoy spending time with Joe, whether riding with him, crewing for him or marking trail. Tanna is back and an endurance horse again! Serts' leg is good and healing well.

God has been merciful to me.

Tanna and me at the finish line. The pie plate on the left is one of the markers for the finish line. Photo by Daniel Johnson.


Anonymous said...

You guys look great ! I'm so happy that Tanna is back to acting like a great endurance horse.. it seems that he has made a full recovery. I would like to try that ride sometime, it looks like fun w/all the historic areas.

Alicia and Synsation

tank said...

Very cool. I enjoyed reading about your endurance day. You must be in some kind of awesome shape 'cause you never mentioned how tired you were towards the end. I'd never survive that!

April said...

Alicia, thanks!! I'm so very happy that Tanna is back in business!

Tank, Broxton was a very special experience. And after working hard and long all week on the trails, riding was a treat! All the conditioning I did between Yellowhammer and Broxton didn't hurt either! I rode 2-3 times a week and did aerobics, weight training and some running another 2-3 times each week. It definitely helps to get in shape for these rides.