Stormont Endurance

This past weekend I went to the Stormont Endurance ride. This time I didn’t take any horses. Just went to work as a lay judge (for the horses entered in the Set Speed ride), and also to teach a beginners clinic on Set Speed.

The weather was outrageously hot and humid. There was a thermometer under one of the canopies where it was slightly cooler, and that was reading 38-39C both afternoons (which is something like 101-102F I think?) I wasn’t feeling too well by the end of the weekend, and I was not the only one. Despite the heat though, the riders took good care of their horses. All of the horses were fine, despite some inversions (when they breathe faster than their heart beats, i.e. panting) and some hanging heart rates. Though one rider did end up in hospital with heat stroke (he was fine after treatment), and quite a few of the volunteers were feeling unwell.

The clinic seemed to go pretty well. Everyone asked a lot of questions and seemed to understand the explanations (as far as I could tell anyway). There were quite a few riders from the OCTRA Green Beans group on Facebook. It was good to see that so many of them felt prepared and motivated enough to come out and try a ride.

During the Set Speed rides, the beginners seemed to know what they were doing, and took excellent care of their horses. They were a bit handicapped on Saturday due to the late start time (11:30, so right into the heat of the day), and a finish line that was nearly a kilometer from camp, which ate up an awful lot of their 20 minutes of cooling time to get their horses’ heart rates down. Due to the circumstances, ride management elected to award mileage completions to the horses who failed the parameter checks, so long as they met parameter by the 30 minute check. Which all of them did. On Sunday, they started earlier and the finish line was moved to the vet check, so they managed a lot better.

It was the veterans who got confused and forgot what to do and when. Set Speed is not all that complicated. Not nearly as complicated as CTR and every one of the veterans could have sailed through a CTR without a glitch. But I think Set Speed so similar to endurance that they forget the actual difference – 20 minutes to meet parameter instead of 30, and then a final heart rate and vetting at 30 minutes (which, in combination with overall speed, is scored). Or maybe it was just so damned hot that brain cells were frying and they couldn’t have figured out anything at all, including CTR, Set Speed, or how to tie their shoelaces. I know I felt like that for most of the weekend too.

I was busy with the Set Speed, so didn’t have time to pay close attention to the endurance. But it was an FEI as well as Open ride. On Saturday they had a 160km (100 mile) which I believe Melody Blittersdorf from the US won. In the 120km (75 mile) There were only two entries that I saw. Valerie Kanavy from the US won the senior, and a young rider from Mexico won the junior level. Stephanie McLeod won the 80km (50 mile) riding Teresa Finnerty’s big handsome boy Thistle (aka “The Ploughbeast” – he’s half Clydesdale). On Sunday, Wendy MacCoubrey won the 80km on Agil’s Royal Indy. Nancy Zukewich won BC and HVS with Luba. There were two entries in the 120 km on Sunday as well. Monica Grundmann won on her Morab stallion, Excalibur Legend. Mike Downing was treated for heat stroke, so he was pulled on one of his last loops. He did recover fine after a short visit to the hospital.

I took my camera of course. I got a few photos, which are below. Nothing like the veritable tsunami of photos that appeared in the OCTRA Facebook group over the last 36 hours though. Wow… there sure were a lot of people with nice cameras wandering around ride camp.

[All photos are copyright Deanna Ramsay 2014. They are available for purchase]

Summer Solstice Endurance Ride Photos

Here are some random photos from the ride last weekend…

I didn’t ride. I trailered Ares and Ella for Anastasija and Veronica, and picked up Jackson (Sharon’s Quarter Horse) along the way. I was going to try to take a lot of photos on Sunday, but ended up helping the Ride Secretary. So didn’t get too much opportunity.

Ana and Ares had a great ride. Ares has really come a long way. He is calmer and much more confident at competitions. Ana gave him a lot more electrolytes this time and it really showed. He looked fresh and happy at the end of the 12 miles. So next time she would like to do a 25.

Ella was a bit of a pill for Veronica. Not on trail where Ella is always calm and steady, but in camp she barged around and gave everyone a hard time. It did not help that Veronica was feeling very sick to her stomach, so she opted out at the mid-check. There’s probably a lot of groundwork in Ella’s future.

Sharon and Jackson were both excited and occasionally confused at their very first ride. But they both appeared to be beaming with delight at the end. So I think that was a big success.

Unfortunately none of the photos I took of my little herd turned out very well. I will have to be a bit more organized next time.

Cayuse Canter

I wasn’t planning on going to Cayuse Canter Endurance Ride, since I have been sick with some nasty respiratory virus, and my bank account has been suffering from it’s own flu (due to the necessity for an extra couple of loads of hay this month to get us through until the grass gets going.) But Anastasija has been bubbling over with excitement and ambition to compete with her horse, so she campaigned all week until I agreed to go.

Diego managed to find something really disgusting to lie down in on Saturday morning before we left. He looked awful, stained with green, brown, and yellow, legs and belly encrusted in mud and manure, and he smelled even worse. It was too cold for a bath, so I just held my nose and loaded him up.

Ares was clean of course, because Ana is much wiser than I am. She put a rainsheet on him the night before and left him in the (less muddy) back paddock overnight. Even then, Ares rainsheet looked a bit disgraceful. He definitely tried to get himself as filthy as Diego.

Ares and Anastasija ready to start
Ares and Anastasija ready to start

Ana was entered in the 12 mile Set Speed ride on Saturday. I was in the 12 on Saturday and the 25 on Sunday. The trails were modified a little bit though, and they turned out to be 14 and 27 miles. And the 50 became a 55. There were lots of entries in both of the Set Speed rides, but not too many in the 55. It’s been such a difficult spring for conditioning that many of the horses are not as fit as usual.


I had to spend a lot of time scrubbing the mud off Diego. Rubber currycomb, shedding blade, wet towel, sponge, bucket of water. It still only got the surface muck off. I had to really scrub at his hocks, and at one point, with the rubber curry I didn’t realize I was scrubbing a big scab and ripped it off. Quite a bit of blood oozed out, and he was not too happy, poor guy.

At the initial vetting, Ares got all A’s and really behaved himself well. He’s much less anxious that he has been at previous rides, and so is Ana. Diego was also good, but when he trotted out, the vet noticed he was dogtracking and had one hip a bit higher. That’s something Diego does do, as he’s a fairly crooked horse. But it’s not something the vets usually comment on. Then I remembered the scab that I’d ripped off, and the vet checked that. He figured it was tender enough that probably it was affecting him a little bit. Diego was not lame, and the vet thought he was fine, so we were allowed to start.

I’ve been a little bit frustrated with the treeless saddle I’ve been riding Diego in. I have a nice Christ sheepskin pad that I use with it. Last fall I put some really thick inserts into it, which created a very distinct spine channel. That was great for him, and it solved all of his sore back problems. But unfortunately, it’s not so good for me. The padding is so thick that it’s made the saddle quite unstable. A few weeks ago, in a fit of frustration after falling off him at a walk when he spooked at a rock, I pulled the inserts out of the pad. I was immediately much more comfortable and secure. I knew that would not be sufficient for longer rides, but it worked fine for short rides around the farm, which is all I’ve really been doing. I was planning on putting more moderate inserts into the pad, and tossed them in the trailer to take with me. But of course, somehow I ended up with a mismatched set and the really thick ones that I now despise. I opted to protect myself instead of Diego’s back and left the inserts out of the pad.

Andrea and Skye
Andrea and Skye

Andrea and her lovely big Belgian/QH mare Skye went out with Ana and I. There were some politics to work out initially, since Ares is rather awful about strange horses. It actually occurred to him that attacking her might be a good plan. Anastasija made short work of that idea though, and he settled down. I put Diego in the middle, and Ares went out in front. He’s a very brave little horse on trail. Surprising, since he’s so neurotic about most things. But he trucks along at a good clip. I only saw one spook all day, and that was just a half stop and he immediately carried on forward. He showed off his lovely canter going around an open field and Andrea commented on how nice it looked. He loves to canter.

Ares and Anastasija
Ares and Anastasija

Skye went out in front periodically and we’d send Ares to the back to prevent any rudeness from him. He’s not so happy following though. He definitely prefers to be in front. Skye likes being in front too, but she was getting a bit excited that first day (she hasn’t been to a ride for quite a while) so she had to go to the back of the line whenever she starting charging forward (big strong girl… she’d make an amazing jousting horse!)

Skye wanted to go... fast!
Skye wanted to go… fast!

Diego was pretty happy to be in the middle. He figures that lions will pick off Ares and Skye and that will give him time to scamper off with his life 🙂 He does actually go in front sometimes, and once he settles into it, he’s fine. He seems to prefer to lead when we are crossing open fields. On single track trail he’s happier to have a leader in front of him.

Ares and Anastasija
Ares and Anastasija

The trails were just beautiful. The trilliums were out, as well as a few other wildflowers. The footing at Cayuse is mostly pretty nice. Lots of sandy loam. Very little roadwork (really just a short section of gravel road to access the forest from the ride site). It’s all rolling hills with the occasional gorgeous view.

One of the views along the Cayuse Canter trails
One of the views along the Cayuse Canter trails
Alison and Dianne  on trail
Alison and Dianne on trail
Alison and Dianne crossing the railway bridge
Alison and Dianne crossing the railway bridge
View of the trail from the railway bridge. Jolanda Slik and her Saddlebred, Ace's Night Hawk are just heading to the water trough.
View of the trail from the railway bridge. Jolanda Slik and her Saddlebred, Ace’s Night Hawk are just heading to the water trough.

At the mid-check, Diego was no longer tracking oddly behind, and the vet figured he was fine. He felt good all through that first loop (it was only 7 miles of course). He walked in at parameter, so despite my hopes of getting him a bit cleaner after sponging him off to cool him, I could only take a damp sponge and wipe off the worst of the rivers of sweaty muck dripping down his sides and legs. The wind was cold, so he’d have been a shivering mess if I’d really used any water on him.

We went out on our second loop after a 45 minute hold. Ares was still trucking along with tons of energy. The cold weather really helped him to stay cool. He led for most of the second loop as well. I am really impressed at how steady he’s become. Skye was more settled on the second loop as well. She was able to lead a bit more without charging off like a racehorse. She’s a lovely mare, and has an absolutely amazing trot. You would not look at her and expect to see that kind of speed.

Andrea and Skye lead the way into the vet check
Andrea and Skye lead the way into the vet check

Partway through that loop, I start to feel suspicious about Diego. I changed diagonals and he’d immediately flip into a canter. I tested it about three times. Yup. Sore back. The insert decision was coming back to haunt me. I did my best to stay off his back for the mile or two we had left. But he was starting to feel wrong. We walked into the finish.

When I pulled the saddle off, I could see ruffled hair right in the middle of his back, and swelling over the spine. That’s a spot that will always swell on him if there’s the least bit of pressure there. It goes away within a half hour or so. But it’s a big warning sign.

Do you have a cookie? Because I like cookies...
Do you have a cookie in your pocket Andrea? Because I like cookies…

His heart rate was already at 48 when we came in. So he had no issue meeting parameter. When I took him to his 30 minute vet check, he had to wait for a couple of minutes in line, and was half asleep. His final pulse was 39. That’s the best he’s ever had. So that was great. But when he trotted out, the wonky dogtracking was back. He still wasn’t lame. Just not travelling straight. I told the vet that I was pretty sure his back was sore, and sure enough, he was sensitive when the vet checked it. We decided that he should not go out on Sunday, although he did pass the check.

Ares passed the vetting just fine. His final pulse was 43, which is far lower than he managed at his first two rides. Anastasija was thrilled with that. Skye had a final pulse of 40, and also passed with flying colours.

At the awards Saturday night, Ares got a Grade 2, and Diego and Skye got Grade 1 (range is 1-best to 5-lowest). Anastasija was beaming. So was Andrea 🙂 The two of them decided to go out together on Sunday to do the 14 mile mileage ride.

Ares and Anastasija
Ares and Anastasija

I checked Diego’s back before bed, and it was completely back to normal. No swelling, no flinching. Nothing. So no permanent damage done. He was the same the next morning too. He was a little worked up when Ares went out on trail. But he did settle down eventually. And I took advantage of all that snortiness to get some nice photos of him.

Once he settled down I took him over to the vet check, and had the vet look at him again. They were in a lull between loops, so I got two vets for the price of one. His back was perfect, but he actually looked a bit lame, not just wonky when he trotted out. On examination, it looked like his hock was starting to get just a touch of filling around the cut. The second vet was pretty sure it was actually the cut bothering him the most, and not his back. Which made sense. He suggested that I sweat it.

Ares was pulled at the mid check on Sunday. Bad luck. He had bruised his frog on a rock. It wasn’t bad, but Ana could feel it out on trail every now and then and knew he wasn’t quite right. Skye and Andrea carried on and finished the last loop alone. She said that by then Skye was really good. They just had a bit of a moment when some faster riders went by and Skye was SURE she could catch them. So there was some sideways cantering. Given the size and power of that mare, I imagine it’s quite something to be on top of her when she’s doing that!

This morning, I could still see a bit of swelling in Diego’s hock. So currently he’s in a stall with it all wrapped up in furacin sweat, plastic wrap, and a bandage. It doesn’t look too bad so far. But he is flinchy enough about it that I do think that was the cause of the wonky movement, and not the sore back (since that was better within a couple of hours).

I took a ton of pictures, both on trail and in camp. So here’s a gallery with a whole lot more (you can click on any of the thumbnails to see a full sized version of the photo.)



500 Miles (and Sweat!)

On Friday, with a great deal of trepidation, I loaded Dressy up and took her to the Cayuse Canter ride. All week the weather report predicted higher and higher temperatures for the weekend. I just kept reminding myself that I could just not start if it was too hot, or pull after six miles if need be. She has not been sweating properly since Aprilfest (though I was initially focused on her heart arrythmia, I later realized that the lack of sweating likely caused the A-Fib).

Set speed rides have a speed range of 4 to 7 mph. You are disqualified for too fast or too slow. You get a score at the end which is roughly weighted halfway between average speed and final heart rate. So faster speeds and lower heart rates are the target. I planned on doing between 4 and 5 mph, which is a conservative pace for Dressy, and I was hoping that she would get through without overheating. But I was perfectly prepared to get off and walk her in she showed the slightest sign of distress.

I took along a case of Guinness (for Dressy, not me!), and also the newly arrived jar of “One AC”, the supplement that I ordered from the US. It was actually in my mailbox as I drove out the driveway with the rig. So that was serendipitous. She got her first dose of it on Friday night along with her Guinness.

Saturday morning, I went out with Emily and her little QH, Duke. Duke is new to all this, but he’s a trooper. He has a slower trot than Dressy, so I had Emily go out in front. It kept Dressy from rocketing off down the trail. We went out around the first big hay field, and down into some trees. Perhaps a half mile in, I reached down to rub Dressy’s neck, and my hand came away slippery with sweat. SWEAT!!! I was so excited I almost fell right off her. “It’s sweat!” I yelled at Emily. “Dressy is SWEATING!!!”

Duke trotted along at a perfectly even pace. I was beyond impressed with him. He trots up hills, down hills, around corners… never slows down, never speeds up. He’ll occasionally break to a canter, but still doesn’t really speed up. Just a nice easy canter on some uphills. As Quarter Horses go, he’s not big, and not heavily built. So although he certainly suffers more in the heat than an Arab, and takes a little longer to cool down, it’s not as much of a problem for him as it is for many of the bigger horses. His resting heart rate is 28, so even when he’s a bit hot, his heart rates are very respectable. Once he’s fitter, he’s going to be very competitive.

Donna and her young grey Arab, Sky, caught up with us a couple of miles into the loop and she rode with us the rest of the day. Sky was very well behaved and just followed along nicely. Donna was very happy with him. He liked the pace and seemed quite happy with Dressy and Duke.

Dressy continued to sweat. Donna could see a bit of foam between her hind legs too. Coming into the mid-check, I had a look at the heart rate monitor (I’ve been a bit obsessive about monitoring her heart rate). We were walking by then, and Dressy was already down to 58. I pulled her tack, sponged her off and checked with the stethoscope. She was 48 already, so well below parameter of 56 and we were able to walk right in to present for pulse (which meant that the clock stopped and our 40 minute hold started). She got all A’s in her exam. The vet listened to her heart for quite a while to make sure she sounded fine. But told me that other than her 2nd degree AV block (which she’s always had), she was in perfect rhythm.

Sky met parameter at the same time as Dressy, and Duke was just a few minutes later. Which meant that our out times were all pretty close. Donna waited the few extra minutes with me for Emily and Duke, and we went out together again. At the start of this loop, my gps was reading 7 miles. Since I’d forgotten to turn it on until we were out around the hayfield on the first loop and we were doing the “six” mile loop twice, that seemed a bit long. Even accounting for an extra few minutes of walking around to get to the vets.

Duke again went out in front. His ears were up, and he looked very happy to be leading. Although he looked at a few logs and rocks suspiciously, he never spooked, and maintained a remarkably even pace. Sky was very politely holding well back from Dressy. I told Donna and Emily that I was perfectly happy to have Dressy in between Duke and Sky, since it minimized the spooking. Donna found it hard to imagine Dressy being spooky, and Emily just laughed, since she’s seen Dressy zigging and zagging down the trail ahead of her. Eventually, I took Dressy out in front for a while and let her trot out a bit. We had a couple of fairly spectacular sideways leaps (which I’m happy to say I stuck with). I could hear loud giggles behind me all the while.

We didn’t stay in front for too long, since Dressy was quite excited, and I realized that maybe a Standardbred trot was an inappropriate speed for the two green horses behind us. Not to mention inappropriate for Dressy who I was trying to be careful with after all. And you know… I get kind of excited myself when Dressy trots out. It’s just remarkably fun to ride a fast horse. Tamping down my enthusiasm, I sent Emily ahead again. So Duke led for most of the day, with Sky taking a few turns. Sky was really good too, though he did startle at a few things along the way and stopped hard once or twice.

As it got towards noon, it really started getting hotter. The day eventually hit 30C and moderately humid. I heard that there were several cases of thumps (caused by an electrolyte imbalance), which we don’t often see in Ontario. So the weather was a challenge. Dressy never showed the least sign that she was in any sort of distress, or difficulty. The heart rate monitor showed a nice steady low rate all day (mostly around 110-120).

It took a few minutes longer to get her cooled down and to reach parameter at the final check. But it was still perfectly normal for her. We were quite comfortably inside our allowed 20 minutes. Her final 30 minute heart rate was 43. Very respectable.

After a perfectly wonderful lunch provided by my neighbour, Sue (I DO bring food, but hers was just so much better than mine!), I went over to do the scoring. I use a spreadsheet for that, so I just have to enter start time, finish time, and final pulse. Everything else is calculated automatically.

Everyone’s speeds were quite slow in both the 12 mile and the 26 mile rides. But later on, ride management adjusted the distances to 13 miles and 28 miles (many riders wear a gps, and everyone’s was reading quite a bit further than 12 and 26… mine said 14), so I adjusted the spreadsheet and that made the speeds a bit more normal. Dressy ended up with a grade 3 (5.1 mph + 43 HR). I was very pleased.

While I was sitting in the secretary’s trailer doing the scoring, I heard a bit of commotion. Ron Savard came riding into the vet check to ask for emergency services for a rider down on trail. It turned out to be Michelle. She was riding Allieena and the mare had fallen on her. Allieena fell at Aprilfest, and Michelle ended up in hospital then too. She returned later with her broken wrist in a cast. Ron went back out on trail and finished the fifty, albeit quite a bit later than he would otherwise have done. So he was the hero for the day. Well… no. Not the only hero… Quentin Llop who is both blind and paraplegic also finished the fifty along with his wife, Libby. For the rest of the weekend, every time I heard someone start to complain, they stopped and commented that they had no business complaining about anything at all after seeing Quentin ride. He was quite an inspiration to everyone.

Right after Ron Savard came in to report Michelle’s injury, an ambulance pulled into camp. I thought it was for Michelle, but it turned out to be for Ruth, whose horse was unusually spooky on trail. She came off twice. Both times she got back on and continued. She finished the 50. Got her horse vetted and THEN had an ambulance come for her. She returned to camp later, battered and bruised, but okay.

Sue, the neighbour with the wonderful lunch, was thrown from her young horse at Summer Solstice two weeks ago. It turned out that she’d fractured her pelvis in that fall. She said that her doctor was quite displeased that she was planning to ride. She rode both days on Peach in the 13 mile rides. And was still smiling at the end.

Helen was at this ride too. She’s a very long-time distance rider who has had some challenges in the last few years. She did the 28 mile set speed ride on Saturday and reached 4000 miles of competition in OCTRA on her young appy, Majik. Helen’s daughter adopted one of my ex-racehorse orphans. A failed young broodmare by Glitter Bee who they call BeeBee. So I got a lovely report on how much Dawn loves that mare and how successful she’s been in her conversion to a good trail horse.

After Saturday’s results, I was much more confident in Dressy’s safety. So I chose to go out again on Sunday. Emily and Duke had gone home. But Donna was so pleased with how Sky went along with Dressy and Duke that she elected to ride with me again. This time, Dressy led for much of the day. We moved out a bit more and ended up with an average of 6.14 mph. Her final heart rate was 39. Which is her lowest ever in a set speed ride. She got a grade 1 (which is the top grade).

Sky had a final heart rate of 34. Which was one of the lowest heart rates of the day. And they ended up with a grade 1 and the high score in the 13 mile. I had to leave before the awards, so I didn’t get to congratulate Donna. But I’m sure she was very happy with Sky.

Dressy did 26 miles between the two days. Which is not at all exceptional under normal circumstances of course. But after all our trials and tribulations over the last two months I was just thrilled with her. She was back to sweating completely normally. And to top it all off, she hit her 500 OCTRA miles level on Sunday. So she will get her mileage plaque this year.

Trotting Hills

Dressy got a really good grooming today. First the currycomb and the brush, then the vacuum, then another brushing. Yesterday when I was riding her, she eventually warmed up just enough to release all her accumulated horse/manure smells that had been ground into her coat all winter. Once it started wafting up, the smell was so strong it was nearly visible in waves in front of my face. Burning out my sinuses. Gah!   No way I was getting back on her today without her being a whole lot cleaner.  She enjoyed all the currying and vacuuming enormously. Quivering upper lip and all. I even put some conditioner in her mane and tail and brushed it all through. Her tail is looking exceptionally long and lovely this year. With all the blanketing she’s had this winter, it’s protected it from rubbing.

It was warm again today, and the frost is mostly out of the ground. With clay soil that means it’s a boggy mess everywhere. The fields are very soft, and the trails still have ice sheets covering them.  I didn’t want to go and ride on the roads alone, since the traffic around here is pretty bad during the week, and the roads have no shoulder. Bad enough even with company. Alone, Dressy would be less reliable. So I just rode back and forth on the driveway today. 4 miles of (mostly) walking down and trotting back up the hills.

I live on top of a moraine. It’s quite high, and on a good clear day, I can see for miles in all directions. My driveway is long and runs straight up from the road at a fairly steady grade to pass my house, whereupon it goes back down a steep hill towards the back of the farm. I think it’s about a quarter mile each way.

Then at the end we had another session of walking lessons. She gets herself worked up sometimes and thinks she has to rush. I don’t mind if she walks fast when I ask for a walk. Really fast even. But not jogging. Today we reversed and went away from home every time she broke out of a walk. She broke out into quite a sweat over the whole issue. But in the end she walked politely all the way up the hill and into the yard without fussing.

I was kind of a wimp though. It was raining, and I was bored. So we only rode for a little under an hour.  And yes, she smelled a LOT better 🙂

Winter Conditioning

I’ve been riding pretty steadily this winter. I’ve tried to ride at least every other day (usually Dressy, but sometimes King too),  Most days I finish up the morning chores between noon and 1pm.  Some days a bit earlier if all goes well. Then I have to be back to work around 3 or 3:30 to do afternoon chores. Once I eat some lunch, I can usually get in about an hour of riding.

Until last week I was keeping up well. I managed 16 days of riding in a month. Never too far. Most rides ended up around 4 to 5 miles I think. But at least we are getting out enough to keep Dressy from losing too much fitness anyway.

But life and work got in the way a little this past week. Jen normally does morning feeding, and last week she picked up some sort of virus and was really sick. So I had to get up earlier to feed at home before going in to work. Which also meant I was getting to work a bit later. So a bit less time and energy at midday. The weather has not been cooperating either. The temperatures dropped quite radically for a few days and the soggy footing turned to sheets of ice, since there’s almost no snow at all.  The footing is still quite treacherous.

It’s supposed to rain for the next couple of days, so I figured I had better get out and ride Dressy today. Managed to get in 5.35 miles. Dressy was quite rushy and excited.  It probably doesn’t help that the footing is terrible in the paddock beside the barn. Frozen lumpy mud. She must have had quite a lot of pent up energy. All things considered though, she was pretty good. She got up a bit of a head of steam at one point near the beginning of the ride. But after that, we worked on relaxed walking and trotting and she settled down. We are still just doing laps around the fields. Mostly around the front corn field, but today I managed to work her past all the sheets of ice and get to the back field for one lap towards the end of our ride.

I am hoping that once the racehorses at work go back to the track in February, and I don’t have quite as much work… and when it’s light a bit later in the day as well… that I can start putting in some longer rides. So she should come into the first rides quite fit. I hope!



Year End Points

I have just finished uploading the final set of ride results to the Ontario Competitive Trail Riding Association website (I’m the webmaster). With that final set of results, all the year end points are now up to date.

So… here’s the rundown on our various little blog stars…

Brooke, who rode Dressy for part of this year, and had her season cut short by a motorcycle accident, ended up as the 7th place Junior.

Diego (Misha’s horse – boarded here with me) just barely missed the top ten in Set Speed with an 11th place finish overall. He also finished in the top ten at only his second 50 in extreme heat. Passing horses on the last loop.

Blazing Grace, Chrystal’s little chestnut off-track Arab mare (she of the exceedingly hard luck history), entered three set speed rides. Won all three easily. And ended up in sixth place in Set Speed for the season. Her little chestnut butt was the star of yesterday’s blog post 🙂

Shorty (Short Circuit), the Standardbred/Arab cross that I rode at Spring Ride finished 8th in Set Speed for the season. He also finished his first 50 this year with his regular rider, Mike.

Foxy Baronessa (one of my old Standardbred racehorse charges) finished 21st (of 70) in Set Speed for the season.

Dressy Gal… my big bad boss mare… ended up Reserve Champion Set Speed horse. And will also get the High Point Standardbred award. She is a most excellent mare 🙂

Coates Creek Set Speed Ride

The weather forecast for yesterday`s ride looked pretty bad most of the week. And Saturday was a really awful day. But when I got up Sunday morning (well… when Misha called me from her car… already stressing about getting Diego on the trailer) the pre-dawn was reasonably bright from the moonlight, and the wind had died.  I would have been happy enough with cold and rain. But there would have been a lot of cranky volunteers for us to deal with. It turned out to be a cool, fresh October day with occasional bouts of sunshine, and absolutely gorgeous trails.

Diego was a little sticky about the trailer, and Misha was losing it a bit when I got out. Not falling apart, but starting to vibrate a little. She handed me the stock whip and I stood on Diego`s near side to prevent him from evading to that side. I don`t generally do much. Just stand there and make him nervous. But eventually, as usual with him, he allowed the unsettling person behind and the encouraging person in front to entice him on.  He`s a good little horse, but he wasn`t broke until he was 11 or thereabouts, and still thinks he should make his own decisions. Trailers have always been a problem for him.

Dressy, of course, loaded up directly. As always. She marches up, turns herself around and backs right in. “Do up that chest bar,  gimme my cookie and my hay bag, and let`s go“.

It’s about an hour and a half to Coates Creek ride site, and at 6am on a Sunday morning, traffic is near non-existent. So it was an easy trip. We arrived just as vetting started. Misha set up her electric paddock and split it down the middle to give Dressy half. It’s one of those Zareba EZEE corrals, and I have to say that although it looks nice, and the theory is good, in practice the damn thing never seems to work the way it should. Yesterday, it went up okay, but the power didn’t work. Turned out not to matter, as they were not  in it for long. But I prefer my homemade electric paddock with the cheap step in posts, a ground rod, a roll of wire, and a Zareba Yellow Jacket portable fencer. Cheap, easy, and it actually works.

There were 20 horses entered in the 31 mile Bronze level ride (which is between 4 and 7 miles per hour), and 6 horses in the Silver level ride (between 5 and 8 mph).  There were three loops, with a gate at the end of the first and a regular full vet check at the end of the second loop. A gate is where you ride in, get your horse down to a 64 heart rate, and trot for the vets to watch (for lameness) as you ride out. The clock continues to run through that type of hold. I haven’t done a gate before at a set speed ride, and I really underestimated how much it would slow us down. Towards the end of the first loop, my GPS was reading around 8.5mph average. By the time I rode out, it had dropped to around 7mph. It gradually climbed back up through that second loop. But we really never made up that time. The full vet check didn’t have as much of an impact, since the clock stopped when we reached parameter (56bpm) and we started our 40 minute hold.

Dressy really moved out on the first loop. It was unfortunate as it turned out, because she bonded to a group of horses that don’t pace well for her purposes. Dressy has a nice big trot, and she can go reasonably fast. But her forte is her steadiness. She goes out and trots fast and steady (12+ mph), and she can maintain that for a long time. But at 14-16mph the trot is much too extended. At 16mph she starts breaking to gallop, and definitely cannot maintain that for a long time. It takes way too much out of her.

I struggled with her quite a bit. I tried taking her back, but she’d decided that the big grey thoroughbred was her friend, and she wanted to catch him. She paced, and fought me, and kept catching up. So after the first ten miles when we went through the gate, I held back so they were long gone. But she power trotted until she caught them. If they’d maintained that 14-16mph speed, we never would have. But they were alternating between galloping fast and trotting slow. So overall she would have actually travelled faster… If I could have separated her from them. But there’s no way I could have passed, since I’m pretty sure those horses would have gone with her. I also find in the first few miles that Dressy can be very spooky in the lead. So I generally want her knowing there are horses ahead that she can focus on catching, instead of focusing on the monsters in the bushes.

At the 20 mile vet check, I held back and waited for Sue T. She’d lost her riding buddy (pulled) and wanted to ride with someone. That suited me, because she is a very experienced rider and rides a steady pace. Which is what Dressy needed to do as well. That loop was much better for Dressy. She was a little tired after all the shenanigans on the first two loops. But she trotted the whole thing without any issues. Chrystal and Grace passed us on that loop and Dressy went with her for quite a distance. But eventually we let her go, since her pace is a bit fast for Sue’s horse.

A look at my GPS track is quite enlightening. The first loop has radical up/down peaks from speeding up and slowing down. The second loop is steady and even through the first half (when we were alone and trotting) and then back to up/down peaks after we caught up again. Then the last loop is back to smooth steady trotting with Sue and her horse Trevor.

We did not make the target speed of 8mph. And in fact just missed the 7mph speed. Although my GPS shows a speed of 7.2mph. I was very pleased with her anyway. She had a good pulse at her final check, and easily reached parameter at the checks. Although we slowed down and let those three horses go ahead, Dressy still got 2nd place. So it paid off to manage her pace a little bit.

Chrystal’s horse, Grace won the Bronze level ride. By far. In fact Grace won the high score of the day… by miles. Her final pulse was 36. Chrystal took an extra long hold. Slowed her down as much as she could, and still finished in 6.99mph. The absolute maximum speed allowed for Bronze. If you watch that horse move, it doesn’t look like she’s working at all, and you can’t imagine that it’s fast. But try and follow on another horse and look at your gps…. Like a little streak of lightning, that mare.

Diego had a good ride. Placed third in the Set Speed, behind Wendy’s young horse Firefly. He looked good all day when I saw him. Although Misha always looked unhappy to see us… Diego had a meltdown every time he laid eyes on his boss mare. Tore up his (non-electrified) paddock at the mid-check when we went out just as he had come in. Had a hissy fit on the trail when we passed him going the other way on two way trail. Not pleasant for Misha that’s for sure.

However, after we loaded him in the trailer, Misha thought that he looked a little off colour. Wouldn’t take a treat from her hand. I loaded Dressy, gave her a cookie, and handed one to Diego. He didn’t take one from me either. We headed out, figuring that it was better just to get him home. The vet at that ride was Kathy, and she was going to stop by my place on her way home to look at King’s face (he still has a hard lump in his cheek where he was kicked). So we would have a vet available a few minutes after arriving at home anyway.

I stopped at Tim Horton’s to get an iced tea (I was desperately thirsty) and Misha checked on him again. By then he was shaking and sweating. She was quite alarmed, and we got right back on the road. She called Kathy, who was just a few minutes behind us. If you’re going to have a horse colic on a trailer, it sure feels better to have a vet right behind you.

We got him home and unloaded him. Stripped off the soaked cooler, and put him in a dry cooler and blanket. There was no manure in the trailer, so obviously he was a bit constipated. Misha walked him for a few minutes until Kathy got there. He had gut sounds but they were definitely reduced and gassy sounding. Kathy arrived, gave him some banamine, and got some mineral oil into him. It took about 45 minutes before he finally passed some manure. It was just a small amount and quite dry. But after that he got steadily better. This morning he’s his usual obnoxious self. Kathy said that there were a couple of other horses at the ride that were of concern too. She figured it was the colder weather bothering them. Diego is definitely a hot weather horse, so that makes sense.

Dressy of course, flourishes in the cold. She was bright-eyed and sassy while she tried to divert everyone’s attention away from Diego and onto her dietary needs. She wanted food, and she wanted as much of it as she could stuff into her greedy face.