I took Dressy to Flesherton this weekend. We entered the 36 mile competitive trail ride. All week I watched the weather forecasts shifting towards hotter and hotter forecasts for the weekend. In the end I just shrugged and decided to go ahead and try, knowing that I would either slow way down and take extra time, or just pull at the mid-check.
The first problem arose when I tried to put Dressy’s old Easy Boots on her hind feet. I managed to break the heel strap right out of the first boot. And since I rarely boot her hind feet (only for Flesherton or the Seoul’s Corners rides which both have lots of rock), I had no spares in the correct size. She wears a 0 in the old sizing chart. So I checked with Marg, and sure enough she had a pair of 0.5 EasyBoot Gloves. Which are much better than the old style boots anyway. So I borrowed those for the day.
I rode with Sue T and her Morab gelding, Traver. Dressy goes along pretty well with him, since he does trot out fast enough that she doesn’t have to mince steps. It can be a struggle for her to travel with Arabs sometimes, since they trot slower than she does, but they canter a bit faster than her easy trot. Traver goes at a speed that she likes quite well though.
She was very excited in the morning, and we zoomed around the ridecamp a bit wildly before the start. But it didn’t take too long for her to settle down and relax once she realized that no horses were going to gallop past. She sweated normally for the entire first loop, which turned out to be 23 miles.
There was plenty of water on trail, and the trail marking was great and very easy to follow. The trail is quite beautiful. It winds through the Beaver Valley and has some huge climbs up the sides of the valley. There are quite a few water crossings, which was a blessing in the heat. She drank at every single one of them. Unfortunately though, I think she would have needed to do the whole ride following a river bed to have cooled down enough to complete this one. It just got hotter and hotter. There was a 10 minute hold at around 15 miles or so which helped a bit. But she probably needed a longer rest at about that point. For some reason the last eight miles to the mid-check were nearly unbearably humid. We walked some of it, but the sections around the fields just felt like we were baking in the sun, so there was not much point in walking. It was cooler for them to trot slowly. I was getting pretty concerned about her temperature, since I could really feel the heat billowing off her. And she was definitely not herself anymore. She did not really want to move out at all.
We stopped to let the horses graze for a few minutes at the sign before the half mile trot in to the mid check. Dressy did eat. But she was panting and very inverted. At that point I really did not think she would pass the first parameter check (a heart rate of 64 bpm within 4 minutes of trotting in). Sue had a pit crew, her husband and a friend of hers. And they were a great help to me as well, sponging Dressy off to get her cool. There was just no way to get her temperature down before that check though, and she did fail to meet it. However, when she came back for her ten minute check (second chance at passing), she had come down to 58.
We went to the vet for the rest of her check. She got a B on capillary refill (push against her gums with a finger and see how fast the pink colour returns). Her cardiac recovery index was 15/17, which is barely acceptable. She had a couple of minuses on her gut sounds. At that point I looked at the vet, and said “we should be pulling shouldn’t we?”. She agreed that it would probably be a wise choice. So that was it. We packed it in and asked for a trailer. When we went back to see the vet about a half an hour later, Dressy still had a somewhat elevated pulse. Not terrible, but not typical of her. I don’t remember the exact number, and our vet card is missing in action, but I think she was still somewhere around 58 or 60. So I was just as happy to be done.
And then I started feeling pretty awful myself. I fought nausea for about two hours. I did take care of myself out on trail for a change. Drank lots of water, some Gatorade, and poured water over my head periodically. So I can’t even think of anything I should have done but didn’t. I have to say that I think Dressy recovered MUCH better than I did. She was enthusiastically trying to pilfer every other horse’s lunch in the vet check, and mowed through three flakes of hay in very short order once she was back at camp. Then she ate her entire hay bag on the trailer coming home. She was quite ravenous.
I, however, was a bit a mess. Despite sticking my head in buckets of water, ice packs on my head, human electrolytes, Tums, a shower (in Marg’s trailer – Marg… provider of all things!), change of clothes, and a nap. I kept getting queasy spells. Ugh. Me and my horse… the both of us are heat intolerant I think.
Anyway, Sue and Traver went on to finish the ride without us. Elaine won top heavyweight and reserve champion, Solstice won top lightweight, and Jessica and her big grey thoroughbred, Earl (Distinctly Western) were the top middleweights. And for the first time, Jessica and Earl actually were the overall champions of the day too. Jess looked pretty darned pleased about that. As she should be… Earl had terrific heart rates. I did the scoring and I really did a double take when I saw them. Jessica has done a great job with that horse.