Yesterday I trailered Dressy over to the Ganaraska Forest to ride with Chrystal. It was a beautiful day. Warm and sunny but not at all humid. Really perfect weather.

Dressy came off the trailer very politely, had a few bites of grass and then stood quietly while I brushed her off and got her tacked up. I spent a few minutes just admiring her glossy coat and overall glow of good health. Chrystal and Grace arrived a few minutes later.

We walked out of the parking lot and both mares were really amazingly good. They walked. Calmly. And walked some more. We admired Grace’s composure. Walked some more. It occurred to me that Dressy was really a bit more quiet than usual too. Grace spooked a little at something ahead of us and Dressy didn’t even try to run madly away. Great progress.

So then we trotted for a while. Still very calm. Dressy was trotting on a loose rein. Grace was trotting without any head flinging, cantering sideways, or general antics. It helped that Dressy was not charging up on either side trying to pass. That actually seemed a bit odd. But Dressy’s ears were up, and she was trotting along well. Just not out of control.

We trotted up a very long hill. Grace floated up it effortlessly as always. Dressy ran out of steam halfway up. But then something crashed in the bushes next to her so she got a little adrenaline rush that perked her up and she finished trotting up the hill. But I asked Chrys to walk for a bit because Dressy was now really blowing hard. After a few minutes she seemed fine so we trotted a bit more. But I was feeling increasingly wrong about Dressy. She was trotting, and her ears were up, but she was NOT herself. Then I suddenly realized in some alarm that she was not sweating. Her neck was dry. I reached under the saddle. Dry.

I told Chrystal to stop and I checked her over. She had a slow capillary refill (press on the gums and see how fast the pink colour returns), and was panting hard. She was inverted (faster respiration than heart rate). I looked at her flanks and thought maybe I could see the beginnings of a flicker there. Which would mean thumps (an electrolyte imbalance). I might have imagined that, I’m not totally sure. But I have seen thumps quite a few times as a CTR judge. And that’s how it starts. I could hear gut sounds (just leaning my ear against her – no stethoscope with me), so I wasn’t worried that she was colicking anyway.

We walked back to the trailer, which was about 3 miles. A very long three miles. Possibly the longest three miles I’ve ever done in the forest. Pulled out my stethoscope and listened to her heart rate. Holy. Cow. 76. And wildly out of rhythm.

I had some Tums in the trailer, but no electrolytes. I took them out the day before to do some mixing experiments with yogurt in my blender and forgot to put them back. So I was cursing myself for that. But I gave her six Tums and Watched her for a few minutes. She seemed okay, so we loaded both horses into the trailer and drove a couple of miles down the road to Chrystal’s place. She had a tub of Ride-Rite there, and I gave Dressy four ounces of it right away. Then set up her electric paddock in a shady spot with some grass. Then I obsessively checked her heart.

It took maybe half an hour or 45 minutes to get her back to normal rhythm. She has an odd heart rate anyway, since she skips regularly. So it might be four beats – skip – four beats – skip, etc. Or it could be three beats. But it’s normally a steady pattern. So by the time we left, her heart rate was 36 and doing the four beat skip pattern quite steadily.

I brought her home and called my friend Kathy who is a horse vet (an endurance vet). She is one of the vets who trained me as a CTR judge. She is really helpful with stuff like this. She said that yes, I did exactly the right thing and that almost certainly Dressy had a calcium imbalance. Though I could have given several more Tums due to the mare’s size. I guess 6 is more the dose for an Arab. She said 8-10 would have been good. But that since Dressy came around that quickly, it was probably still a relatively mild imbalance.

What we could not figure out is WHY the mare had an imbalance. It was not that hot. And we walked for about a mile, then trotted for 5 miles. All I can think is that maybe she overheated in the trailer on the way over? I didn’t notice it being really hot when I opened the doors. But I was chatting to a guy on a motorcycle (about a plane crash that had happened in the forest), so I opened it up and didn’t go in right away. So maybe I missed it.

I’m going to have to get serious about giving this mare extra calcium though. Geez.

Dressy was her usual self coming off the trailer at home (and no… it was not hot in there, though of course it was a bit cooler outside, being evening). She ate most of her dinner but left a couple of bites. It probably didn’t help that I gave her another shot of electrolytes right before she ate.

She looks good this morning. Greeted me with a friendly nuzzle and whuffle in my ear.

The Next Ride

I’ve entered Dressy in the 50 at Spring Ride for the May long weekend in a couple of weeks. It’s been a couple of years since our ill-fated attempt at 50 miles. That was the day that I discovered that Dressy doesn’t actually always feel like stopping when I ask. And that yes, Dressy is quite capable of running herself into the ground (I pulled her at 37 miles when she stopped eating – blood work later showed a mild tie up). Since then, I’ve gotten her even fitter, improved her electrolyte protocol, bought a bit with stronger options (the Myler combo), and learned to start after the pack if need be. However, it must be admitted that I still am not convinced that she has really good brakes.

There are a lot of quiet, steady-minded Standardbreds around. In fact, I think that most Standardbreds are awesomely reliable horses. Dressy is… well. Kind of Thoroughbred-like. She’s highly competitive, and rather on the hot side, temperamentally. She wants to be good (kind of, anyway!), and is highly responsive and athletic. But as she gets really fit, her brain fries.

So, part of my strategy this time is to sponsor a junior. This is a junior that I’ve ridden with before. She has a nice, quiet, steady little Quarter Horse/Arab cross. He’s not at all hot, and Dressy seems to like him. Or at least she doesn’t hate him (which is sometimes all you can expect from a bossmare). Dressy is not quite so competitive when she is travelling with the same horse all day. So I have my fingers crossed that she will settle down with Merlin along and we can do a nice slow 50 in maybe 7 to 7.5 hours.

And just to make the weekend complete, I think we are going to do a 6 mile Ride ‘n’ Tie the day after the 50. Pretty sure I won’t be setting the trail on fire doing that though… I’m already hurting just thinking about running 3 miles the day after a 50!

Green Everywhere

Went out for a slow ride today. Two hours of walking. I had planned for it to be very relaxed walking, but Dressy doesn’t really amble along. She power walks. And if she can get away with it… jogs, paces, or running walks. Or stepping paces, or something else that I can’t identify. But today, I insisted. We walk. So she did. Faster and faster. But we negotiated a deal. As long as it was flat footed walking, she could go as fast as she wanted. She actually topped five miles an hour a couple of times. Dressy doesn’t do slow very well.

An old farm lane between two fields.

Spring is definitely here. The grass is growing madly. And all the trees are getting a pale green glow as the buds start to break open. The trilliums are up and just starting to bloom.

The trilliums are just starting to carpet the forest. They are mostly white, with the occasional bright purplish red bloom scattered through.

I ride through the neighbour’s property (with permission of course). It used to be a cattle farm, but is now more like a private family resort. Lots of fish in that little lake. Sometimes they jump as we are riding by and spook Dressy (everything spooks Dressy when she’s fit).

The neighbour’s private lake

Spring in Ontario is remarkably green and lush isn’t it?

Photos From Aprilfest

My pit crew kids were great at Aprilfest. They worked really hard at taking good care of Dressy. Viktoria’s dad brought his camera along and took some photos, which he sent to me. Thought I’d post them here.

All the photos are copyright 2012 by Aris Pakalns

Here they are, having a break between vet checks
Trotting the big rude mare for the Vets
Viktoria and Anastasia with Dressy
Sue, teaching Viktoria how to use the stethoscope
Attitudinal bossmare…. “Noooooo! That’s cold!!!”
Viktoria visiting Dressy in her electric paddock
Sure wish I’d actually thought about colour co-ordinating before getting dressed in the cold dark trailer at 5am….
Those colours don’t really get better with repetition do they?
Sue on Clay, and me on Dressy
My aussie saddle