When I return from a ride session I'm looking at a few things.
If it is hot I kind of expect her nostrils to be dilated and very "mild" blowing when I step down. This may not be true for high percentage Arabians, but Journey hasn't read the manual that says she is part arab. She didn't get that on the genetic roulette wheel. I have to treat her like someone would a quarter horse, or other heavily muscled breed. Just follow me up a hill sometime and you will be sure she is going to drop dead about half way up. So if it is hot I just keep a watch on her and hit her with sponge water or the pump up sprayer and start stripping tack. If the weather is cold I expect her to be breathing normally by the time we get back, since we walk in the last quarter mile.
No matter if it is a long ride or a short "snappy" type ride I expect the pulse to be down to 60 in less than 10 minutes. Remember when you are out there waiting for your horse to pulse down the ride clock is still ticking. Your ride time is going tick tock, tick tock, and your hold time is counting as part of the time too, those minutes matter and pulsing down can mean you finish or you don't, or you place (if that is your bag) or you don't. I've come to expect 7 minutes for a pulse down with the Spotted Wonder and it just BLEW MY BRAIN when she pulsed down in 2 minutes at Summer Breeze. That is what walking that horse the last quarter mile will help to do, and also dismounting and leading the horse into the check. If you can't pulse down in ten, you are likely over-riding your horse. You might get by with it, and you might really blow it and the horse is the loser on that one.
Get to know your horse's legs. If you know what a nice tight leg feels like, then you will recognize puffiness and swelling should it happen. A puffiness here or there may be a warning of a looming tendon injury waiting to happen, or indicate overuse of the joint in the form of windpuffs, etc. So if you notice in a post ride check a change, back off and pay attention. If your horse is trotting lame, you will want evaluated by a veterinarian.
I always check this post ride on hot days, and after a long ride of 15-20. Pull the skin on the neck into a little tent, let go...it should slip right back flat. If it doesn't you need to do your homework and get the horse drinking better.
Press on them, are they dry and tacky? Need
water. Are they normal pink? Good...press again, how fast does the
white spot turn back to pink? A second or two? Good. Much longer?
Hmmmm.... If you see weird colored gums, dark, mottled, or obviously not normal
you better call a vet.
After a long hard ride how is the horse's appetite. Journey can be very finicky and punky after a long ride. Once she gets her adrenaline down I expect to see hay being pulled, and soupy oats slurped up. If that isn't happening it makes me all kinds of worried, especially since the colic incident in the early Spring. A horse that is doing well should have a ravenous appetite after 25-30-50 miles. After Journey's last 50 she emptied a bucket of mash, drank a half bucket of water, snarfed down the contents of a hay back, then promptly fell asleep standing up with her leg cocked. I threw a blanket on her and did pretty much the same.
If you've ever been so unfortunate to see a horse pee bloody black, you get a bit fixated on the color of urine after a strenuous ride. Clear Yellow is good. Milky Yellow okay...maybe a bit dehydrated. Any shade of coffee, tea, brown, or black urine and the crap has hit the fan. Wave down a treatment vet. My wish is none of you ever experience it.
I can't tell you about gut sounds. In all honesty I don't own a good stethoscope, but it is certainly on my "want" list of things to have in Journey's kit in the trailer. And something I'd like to ask a vet to help me hear and understand.
When all those things are good...I whack the Spotted Wonder on the butt and send her out to her pasture buddies. If we encounter a problem, we back up to a previous lesser level of training and / or re-access.
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