Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance
Favorite Links for training, gear, and memberships!
- National Association of Competitive Mounted Orienteering
- HOW TO CMO
- What is CMO?
- Old Dominion Endurance Rides
- Renegade Hoof Boots
- Riding vs. Racing a discussion with the Duck.
- Trumbull Mountain's INTRO TO ENDURANCE RIDING
- Principles of Conditioning
- Conditioning the endurance horse by SERA
- Short Article: Feeding & Training the Endurance Horse
- Feeding the Endurance Horse, Swedish Author
- Preventing Dehydration In the Endurance Horse, Ontario Competitive Trail Riding Association
- Jim Holland's fantastic training links here!
- South Eastern Distance Rider's Association
April 19, 2009
Completion & Complications
We arrived at The Chicken Chase on Friday morning. I set up camp and installed Phebes in the electric pen. She was pretty calm being her first time camping, munching along on hay and taking in her surroundings. Chris Eickleberry was the person that has mentored me over the winter, and she was camped next door as we were riding together. Our horses have trained together all winter. We got ourselves signed in with ride management and later Phebes was vetted in. She had all A's at the pre-ride but got a B on muscle tone. I looked at the Vet and thought he was kidding. I said huh? You're kidding right? As this vet is known to like to pull some capers, but he was serious. He said she's a little tight in her rump muscles. Phebes is pretty uptight and feels like a rock generally so I thought, okay...she's in heat, and she's at her first ride-camp and she's uptight. We did some walking around and sight-seeing so she could acclimate herself to all the activity and munch grass. She ate and drank well over-night and in the morning all systems were go. Nicole was the scribe for my vetting in. She was there with her ever-ready beautiful smile, and offered to help crew if I needed her on Saturday. If you ever get the chance to meet Nicole you will know she is just an extra special young woman.
There were fifty riders for the Saturday Limited Distance ride. And visions of the start were rattling in my brain all evening, but I just told myself to not get excited and go with the flow of horse traffic as we moved out that morning. She did get pretty wound at the start, but didn't try to kick anyone, didn't really do anything that would have endangered her, myself, or anyone else, but did canter down the trail sideways for a little while. She was very difficult to rate for the first eight miles. We did the first ten mile loop in about an hour and forty minutes, however it took her about ten minutes to pulse down. Her pulse was hanging at about 71 bpm, it would start to come down, but anytime someone new came into the pulsing area, it would pop up to 70 again. I got her head lowered, and then the pulse incrementally started ticking down. She vetted in at the half-way with all A's, except for muscle tone which was again a B. She ate well at the break, and she drank from the water trough (will not drink from buckets) before we headed out again.
The second loop is very hilly, we were going up, or going down, with only a few ridge tops to move out on. She rated better on the second half of the ride, but as the 50 mile riders would blow past us, she would start pulling again. I struggled keeping her in the trot as various riders passed us. She did walk up the long strung out hills, and she walked the steep downhills. She started drinking out of the creeks on the second loop, but was really bothered and would quit drinking if any of her companion horses moved around or got too close. She seems to need a really quiet relaxed pocket of time to take in her surroundings, then drink. Any activity disrupted the whole process and we had to start all over, or she would abandon the water altogether. She did trot most of the fifteen mile section of trail, but did canter some of the flats when other riders came zooming along and rating became pulling.
At about the twenty mile point, going through an area of pines there were exposed roots in the trail. She caught the toe of her left front boot on a root, and nearly went down. As her left, and then right shoulder dropped...so did I, sliding along in the dirt. Thankfully she did not run off this time, and doubly thankful that no horses were pulling along in front to suck her on down the trail.
As we came within a mile of the finish we did walk the horses, and a quarter mile out dismounted and hand-walked them in to the finish. She pulsed down within a minute to 60 and we got our time, and on to the vet check. The vet check was all A's except muscle tone which had dropped to a C. She was still eating, still drinking, and trotted out in hand great. The muscle tone issue had my radar up that something may not be right. I kept encouraging water, and she kept chowing out on hay. By then an hour had passed and we started to make our way back to where we were camped. I was a little worried because I hadn't seen her pee. About a third of the way back she hesitated, wanted to stop and peed. Her urine was almost black. My horse was in trouble. That has to be the most helpless, devastating feeling on this earth. I turned her back around and headed back to the vetting in area. They sent us back to camp and about an hour later the vet came down and gave her fluids, then banamine after her urine began to clear. All the while she was eating, and drinking. The vet left and I started to feel not so good...
During the process of taking care of her and the ride itself I had become dehydrated, and was just on the verge of passing out. I sat down on my mounting block and Chris brought me a bucket of cold water which I pretty much drowned myself in, with a wet cold dripping towel on my head. After I got control of myself I locked myself in my trailer and just worked at cooling down, getting out of my riding clothes and into shorts and a tank top. It took me about an hour to get control of that, and in between hand walking Phebes once per hour, I crashed on my cot with a cold wet towel, and downed fluids.
I wasn't sure if Phebes would get her completion because there is a timing issue. If you need a vet within a certain time frame within your finish you don't get a completion. As it turned out we were outside the windown of time and she did get her completion, but of course none of that mattered too much by this point. My priority and worry being my horse, where I went wrong in getting her ready, and really a lot of uncertainty about the future. A day later I'm thinking that things went wrong in several areas.
She was in heat.
We trained all winter, but it was almost 80 degrees yesterday.
We trained for hills, but not nearly enough long, long, long hills.
She rated better than she has done in the past, but the first loop was just too fast for a first time ride. She actually trained on this loop last month and did it in a faster time with no ill effects, but the temps were cool. Yesterday I tried to rate her, but with the chaos of 50 horses clambering down the trail...I failed her. I figure now that she was already set up for a problem by the half-way point. If her vet scores had indicated something, I'd have taken a rider option then, and tried for another day. But nothing had changed at the half way, and by all outward signs it was still a go.
She won't be having any work for two weeks. Then I'll need to get a blood draw to determine if her enzyme levels from the rhabdomyosis have returned to normal. Then a strategy to bring her back into slow work and move forward. Top of the Rock is out, and I'm not going to try again on the hottest ride of the year which is the Salamonie Sizzler. So we will be looking at Fall before we can even consider to try again.
Yesterday was a real eye-opener for me how difficult this sport is, and the risk involved for the horse. It is a very delicate balance and though you plan...and you work, it can all go bad at the ride. I'm humbled by this experience, and that my assurance that my horse was ready was somehow misguided. Mike Habel was the vet that treated her. I told him point blank that I wanted to know where I had went wrong in my year long process to develop her fitness. His answer was "you probably didn't do anything wrong", that sometimes a horse will tie up and if I had the answer to why, then I'd be worth a million dollars. One of the horses that tied up this weekend did it in his electric pen, the horse had not even set foot on the trail yet, and it had never happened to him before. Linda Hamrick came to camp and talked to me about it. She's had it happen to her, and she is one of the top riders in this part of the country. The answer is that there may not be an answer, but I do believe that her lack of rating, the air temperature, the hills, and her heat cycle all combined to create this scenerio. But still she is my horse, and our horses do not ask to do this sport, and rely on us to keep them safe. My horse, my responsibility.
So how to solve this? Mike said that it is possible that next ride she will do the same thing, or she may never do it again. This leaves me with the responsibility of seeing that I take every measure I can to eliminate the risk factors.
The plan moving forward is a two-week rest period. Then if her bloodwork comes back alright, I'll start her back into some very slow work. Next is to get up with a riding instructor & / or trainer to assist me with getting her to rate 100% of the time at a nice easy relaxed trot. I may not canter her for another year. Her job has to be to trot, and trot relaxed and if she can't do that she's in the wrong line of work. I'm not going to risk my horse for my own purposes. I'll do all I can to fix this, but if ultimately she's too hot and nervous to do the job I ask her, we'll give it up. She didn't sign on for this adventure, I did.
I want to thank Chris Eickleberry for being such a source of inspiration for the past couple of years. Her boy Toby's first LD ride was a beautiful success. He kept a steady little pace ALL DAY LONG. He had a middle of the pack finish, and beautiful recovery. He's such a bright eyed pretty boy, and is going to make a fantastic LD horse. Chris knows her stuff.
Thank you Linda Hamrick for the encouragement. She went out of her way to find me, and to let me know that sometimes the best layed plans go haywire. Her gracious smile and "it happens" was like a warm hug from an old friend. But we'd only just met yesterday.
Kari was there with her little bay horse. I don't know how they finished, or if they were even entered, but they were moving down the trail so perfectly. That girl has an astonishing beautiful way of riding, like she is just part of the horse. If only I could.
Thank you to the folks that just said "hey! Endurance Granny. I think I felt more a part of something for maybe the first time in my life.
Thank you Doug, my long suffering E.G. husband for driving down two days in a row to check on us, and to crew for me, and serve as my ride photographer all at the same time. Doug has been so supportive of my desire to live the "dream" of riding limited distance. He's been kind and tolerant of my many training rides, purchased a lot of our gear, and put up with my mean little horse that has caused him a lot of grief over the past four and half years. If you are married, and you are active in this sport, you better have a husband who supports your happiness. I do and I'm very grateful to be loved so much.
All said and done, we had a middle of the pack finish, completion, and a big wake up call. ~E.G.