Judging Last Weekend

I was away this weekend judging at a competitive trail ride. I enjoy judging, but just not as much as I enjoy actually riding. So I don’t work as many rides as I used to.

I took my horse trailer up so I could sleep in it. There’s nothing quite like having your own bed to sleep in at a ride. As far as I can tell, the truck didn’t use much more gas to pull that trailer than it would have used without it. Mind you, that’s not an inconsequential amount either way. It has a big 7.3L gas engine (aka a 460cc engine). So it has enough power to pull that trailer straight up a cliff I think.

The other day I was in Rona getting a new hose for the barn, and I spotted some butane campstoves on sale for $19.99. I bought one on impulse. I do have a bigger propane stove, but I can never get the damn thing to work. This little butane stove though… it worked like a charm. It has an igniter, so you just turn it until it clicks and the burner comes on. Quick and easy. So I had hot tea in the morning! I was very smug about that. It’s the one thing that really bothers me at rides… not having my morning tea. It’s easy to get coffee of course. But I despise coffee.

This ride was actually two days of competition in the Sharbot Lake area. It’s absolutely beautiful up there. Very rocky with a lot of small lakes and hilly, winding trails. I’ve ridden the trails before and although they are tough, technical trails, I love them. It keeps me and my horse interested and focused all day. Long, flat easy trail bores me into catatonic grumpiness. Dressy is okay with that sort of trail (it’s all got to be more interesting than going around and around a racetrack for her). But King hates boring trail as much as I do. The ride management works very hard on that ride. They were building additional boardwalk over a section of trail that had gotten muddy the day before the ride. Every year they seem to add or improve the trail. A number of riders commented on how gorgeous it was. Which of course made me wish I was riding instead of judging.

Anyway, the only real complaint I ever have about that ride is the bugs. Mosquitoes, horseflies, and deerflies. Big enough and mean enough to drive the horses insane. Last time I rode Dressy there, she was shaking her head so hard to get rid of the flies that she nearly fell down. Then she ran right off the trail into a shrubby tree in desperation to get them off her face. This year was much the same for the horses from the looks of it. Judging can be quite death-defying when biting flies are all over the horses. There were a couple of horses who were so angry about the flies (and thus willing to kick anything that moved or touched them) that I had to decline to check their legs for fear of having my head kicked off. Which unfortunately meant penalties for failure to stand for judging and/or penalties for trying to kill the judge.

A lot of riders were using the Bounce trick. Tying or braiding Bounce fabric softener sheets into the horses manes and forelocks to ward off flies. It’s supposed to work well. They all smelled nice anyway! I am going to have to test that one out.

Despite getting quite hot, it was a good weekend for the horses. Only one pull, and that seems like it was just a stone bruise. It was a cute little quarter horse, ridden by a junior. And of course, I had to be the one to pull her. I just hate having to pull a kid. This girl is very dedicated to her little horse and very obviously takes the best of care of her (and the horse obviously adores her kid too). She was devastated at being pulled. But was very shortly completely re-focused on how to take care of her horse. I think through the next 24 hours she had the vet check that horse at least six times to see if she was improving. She soaked and resoaked the foot in ice water until the little mare was nearly sound. It’s very nice to see a junior who is such a good horsewoman already.

I also got to see a horse who hasn’t been out for a while. This guy is a great big handsome half arab who has done quite a lot of endurance but had some issues with tying up. He’s been out of competition for a couple of years. He came out to do the 12 mile ride. He’s looking kind of fat and sassy. His owner said that when she brought him in from the field and started braiding his mane, he just about fell over in his excitement. And then loaded himself on the trailer with great enthusiasm. She arrived at the start on a fire-breathing dragon, and elected to go off to the side and hide him in the trees so he wouldn’t get a glimpse of the horses going out.

I watched all the 12 milers go out. Most were beginners, riding nice, quiet trail horses which, although mildly excited, had no real idea of what was going on. Then I saw one of our old war horses go out… an older Morgan who was under a strong hold and trying to trot up a storm. The big grey must have glimpsed the Morgan through the trees. Because the next thing I saw was the grey exploding out of the trees sideways. Head in the air. Galloping sideways with the occasional wild leap rather like a chaotic capriole. He careened across the field diagonally behind the Morgan. Narrowly missed a car. Then zigzagged back across in front of the Morgan. Still galloping sideways. He obviously knew where the trail entrance was, because he then bolted forward through it. The last I saw, he was in a flat run going around a corner with his rider still on him (though it looked a bit precarious) and pulling for all she was worth. I was convinced at that point that she was not going to live long. But five or ten minutes later, she came trotting back out the entrance and says rather serenely (under the circumstances) “I think I’m going to go back and put a strong bit on him”. She went back out a few minutes later with the horse under reasonable control and trotting politely. There was still some snorting and it was quite an animated trot, but she had speed control. I was totally impressed that she stayed on, got him stopped, and had the presence of mind to turn around, come back, and fix the problem before carrying on. He looked better and better behaved through the day. You could tell the horse was thrilled to be out. He didn’t tie up. And his rider was very happy to be back on him in a competition. I think it was something of a victory for them both.

One of the juniors that I’ve sponsored in past rides was there, doing the Novice CTR. She didn’t have a sponsor until the last minute, so that was a bit of a worry. But Dagmar dropped down from the Open CTR to ride with her. And also Mike and Kim. Dagmar is one of the sunniest and most cheerful people I know, and everything makes her laugh. And she was riding with Mike… who is a wise-cracking goof who really never shuts up and has no shame about bad jokes as far as I can tell. I’m amazed that Dagmar didn’t fall off her horse laughing. I asked Laura if there was a lot of giggling on trail and she sparkled at me, “Oh, quite a bit yes”. I asked Dagmar if she spent the day in hysterical laughter and she just started laughing again. Dagmar’s horse Gunner was ridden by Kim on Saturday, and Mike on Sunday. It was his last ride before retirement (I think she said he’s 19 this year), and he hit 3000 miles. He looked good doing it too. Very professional horse.

Oh and Karen Keller also hit her 3000 mile mark at this ride. She did it on a young horse. A completely BAREFOOT young horse. I was very impressed by that. This is a seriously rocky tough ride in the Canadian Shield which means some of the trail doesn’t even have dirt. JUST sharp rock. And that horse did the Open 33 mile CTR. Looked perfectly sound all day. King and Dressy are both barefoot, and they are pretty good even on gravel. But they could not do that ride without boots.

Quiet Little Ride

I took King out for a short ride today. I haven’t been on him for a few weeks. He had a very mild lameness for a week or so that worried me. But it seems to have disappeared, so I don’t know if it was maybe just a stone bruise or something. He seemed fine today, and was quite energetic. Though of course a horse who was fit for a fifty a month ago is not likely to get tired in a half hour hack around the farm.

I’m giving him two months on the extra selenium (he’s at about four weeks now). Then I will have the vet back for blood work. If he’s up to the middle of the reference range I’ll put him back in training and see what happens.

His weight, of course, is ballooning. It looks like he’s put on fifty pounds in the last month. I’m going to have to dry lot him. He won’t like that! 🙁

Zooming and Propping

I got King’s aussie saddle primarily so I could stick his huge Ayrab teleport spooks. And it’s worked like a charm I must say. I’ve been riding him in it for the last year, and have not yet come off him, despite a couple of hair-raising moments where I ended up hanging from one knee. I’m sure I looked less than graceful at those moments. But I did stick through all of them. To be truthful though, I think the main reason that I haven’t come off him for a while is that most of the time he’s just way better behaved and more gentlemanly than he used to be.

Sooner or later though, if you ride enough miles (even if you are a far better rider than I) at speed, you are going to make an unscheduled dismount no matter what precautions you take. Except… I wasn’t riding King. I came off freaking DRESSY. My perfectly behaved, mature, regal Standardbred mare. I have no idea what little imp took residence in her brain yesterday. But she was all fired up and much spookier than any teleporting Arab. And she’s weird when she’s like that, because she is really really FAST. A moderate trot kept turning into her “smoke the trail” trot with Diego galloping strongly behind her to keep up. If she’d just kept up that trot, even with all the zigging at stumps and zagging at rocks (never mind the hiker in a wheelchair) it all would have been fine. But she was zooming and propping too. Not just coming to a gradual worried halt either. Nope. 60 to 0 in negative .2 seconds. She was defying the laws of physics. Unfortunately, I don’t defy those laws with the same impunity that Dressy does. Eventually she managed to somersault me right out of the saddle. Gallop to backwards stop to spin. Very neatly done. Deposited me right on a small tree. Which I broke with my back. It looked a bit scary afterwards too. I think I probably just managed to avoid being impaled on the sheared off stump. As it is I have a raw patch on my back from it. Well… actually a few raw patches now that I’ve had a closer look. And some bruises. And some swelling.

Not only did she wreck me, she wrecked Misha too with one of her stops. Diego was right behind, and he had to stop fast to avoid her. He sort of bounced a couple of times doing it. And Misha tore something in her groin muscle. She said it felt like paper tearing. She looked very uncomfortable by the time we were done. She said it was bruising pretty badly. I sent her home with an ice pack. Sure hope she can walk this morning.

I checked my GPS track when I got home to see if the speed chart went backwards at any point. But no. It did however drop very precipitously in a few places 🙂

Misha Won

I’m just in from riding, and all sweaty and grimy. But I’ve had a text message from Misha at the Stormont ride. She won the 50 on one of Bob G’s horses. Bob was second. Elaine (I assume on Chanti), and Lee on Parker were 3rd and 4th, but not sure which was which there.

Misha says that those four horses ran together for most of the fifty. Then with about 4 miles to go, Bob and Misha left the other two and raced the rest of the way. She thought it was around a four and a half hour ride time. She seemed pretty excited even just by text. I imagine she will be flying high for a few days.


So apparently my idea of a fast trail, and other people’s is quite different. Many thought that Spring Ride was a very tough and technical trail with a lot of hills. So I’m thinking that no one is ever going to believe my estimation of a trail again 🙂

Maybe it’s because I live on top of a moraine, which means that I don’t have any flat trail anywhere around home. So I don’t notice hills so much, and neither does King generally. He has lived on a vertical slope his whole life. I actually thought that the hills on that trail were not particularly steep with the exception of the one hill on the white loop. And even that didn’t seem all that enormous to me. I have a couple of hills like that on our Jefferson Forest loop, so I thought it was kind of normal since we go up and down that all the time. I think the Dufferin Forest trail is quite a bit harder than the Ganaraska trail with all that deep sand. It also occurred to me that I always pick more difficult trail whether for training or for competition because King is so much better behaved when he has something to think about. Not to mention that I have only ever competed in Ontario, where there are either hills or rock, or both.

But what did throw me a bit was that many thought the footing was tough. I found the 9 mile white loop a bit rough in spots. But the other two two loops seemed really good to me. King and Dressy both found the blue loop easy enough except for the bit of road at the end with some sections of loose rock. But even there, King seemed to clatter over most of it easily enough barefoot since the rock was just randomly mixed through loose sand. I think maybe that after the torrential rain through the week there were more washouts though. And Misha pointed out that the last four miles were the toughest, and that was common to multiple loops. Which is a good point. I only rode that once when I pre-rode it all. Whereas the 50 and 75s rode it over and over again, which multiplied the effect.

King. Again.

The chiropractor looked at King on Friday. He said his SI joint was out a bit on both sides, and all four ankles. But nothing radical. Just the same as it always is. He adjusted him. He figured that King could do the 30 CTR.

I went ahead, figuring that if we got pulled, at least Kathy would be there to take blood samples. I had a look and saw that there was an open time slot with Denise and her pretty little grey mare, Mecca. King loves mares, so I thought that might work out okay. And sure enough, King and Mecca fell in love. Denise was very happy with how her mare went along with King, she was happy to go behind at the start and very relaxed (for her). They paced nicely together. Though of course King wanted to canter a bit more than we should have for a CTR, which makes for a bit of unevenness in the speed. But still, he went beautifully.

It was 34 miles. Two times around the blue 17 mile loop. On that first loop, the two front running 75 milers passed us. Valerie Kanavy (I think on Spectacular Gold?), and John Crandell on Heraldic. Denise and I were joking about it. Now we can say that we’ve had the honour of being passed by Heraldic. Denise tried to explain to Mecca that she was in exalted company. But Mecca just wanted to chase them down (so did King actually).

Coming in on our half mile trot in at the mid check, I felt a tiny bobble from King when we went through a bit of softer footing. I asked Denise if she could see anything but she said he looked fine behind. And he felt fine for the rest of the trot. We got in, and he looked okay at first. We walked over to the vets, keeping the two horses together. I waited while Mecca was vetted, then took King in. I had Brooke trot him while I watched. I could see a faint bobble every couple of strides or so. Looked over at Sue (our judge) and sighed. She asked if I’d seen it. Oh yeah. I said a bad word. We called Kathy over and had her watch. This time, King was easily grade III lame. Obvious and fairly extreme. When Kathy palpated, she found tenderness in the right hind hamstring muscles. But then it shifted to the left side. And after a few minutes he had that leg waving in the air. After an hour or so he stopped favouring it. And in another two hours or so he was basically sound again. Not perfectly, but probably back to grade I.

Kathy took a blood sample within five minutes of being pulled. And then another one about four hours later. She does not believe he has an injury. Says it’s definitely muscle. So it really does look like a metabolic issue of some sort. Not tying up. But some sort of electrolyte or mineral imbalance. We are looking hard at selenium at this point.

I was supposed to stay to sponsor the girls in the ride n tie today, but elected to bring King home instead. I didn’t want him standing around in a pen all day stiffening up. So we got home last night at around 10:30. He looked good coming off the trailer, and is a cheerful mood galloping around the pasture this morning.

Just to top off my day though, it looks like my truck dumped some fluid in the driveway after we pulled in. Not sure if it’s power steering fluid or transmission fluid… or I guess brake fluid is possible too. It starts, and runs, and drives (though I only moved it far enough to get it unhooked from the trailer so it wasn’t much of a test). I will have to check all the levels and see if I can figure it out.

Set Speed Ride

On Saturday, we entered Dressy and Brooke in the 25 mile Set Speed Ride. I rode Deb’s horse, Shorty (Short Circuit). He’s a 16.2hh Standardbred/Arab cross. He’s five years old, and Deb raised him herself. What a big sweetheart he is. He looks like a big clunker, but doesn’t ride that way at all. He has a big easy stride that’s very deceptive. He uses no effort to jog along but when you look at a GPS he’s really moving. He can easily truck along at 10-12 mph without you even realizing it. And he has a lovely soft canter… really amazingly soft for a horse with Standardbred blood. He did test me a couple of times with some baby bucks. Deb warned me about that beforehand though, so it was not a problem. I got after him and he stopped right away. They seem to be just a bit of gleeful entertainment than any sort of malice anyway, so he’s not overly determined about it.

Deb rode Jingles, who is her young horse. It was only his second competition, and he was a star. Trotted right along without any fuss. This is another of her Manitoulin horses. Apparently there’s a big herd of them up there on the island, mostly rather feral. They have no real idea what the breeding is on any of them, as that’s not too carefully controlled. But Jingles is supposedly sired by Flash (Deb’s other horse), when Flash was just a baby himself. Jingles looks like he’s at least part Arab anyway, as does Flash.

Dressy was not such a star in her pre-ride vet check. After doing an atrocious trot out for Brooke (towing her hither and yon at a broken pace) and being rude and pushy generally, the big cow kicked me in the upper right thigh as I tried to write her number on her hip with the grease marker. I was very close, so she didn’t get much power into it luckily. I have a bruise, but not much pain. Not near so much as the pain above my left knee where Winchester kicked me on Friday at work (that one swelled up and hurt all weekend… bad enough that it woke me up a few times on Friday and Saturday night).

However, once we got her out on trail, she reverted back to her normally lovely self. Brooke did need some reminders to keep Dressy off the other horses tails. She keeps forgetting that and it’s quite a serious hazard at any time, much less when the horses are all excited at a competition and don’t know each other. So we will have to work on that.

The 25 mile trail was actually the white loop done three times. Which was a lovely trail. But by the third time around I was ready to slit my own throat. Especially in that heat. The horses were not keen either, and this is where Dressy showed her value. We put her out in front, and she went trotting on as always. She has a great work ethic. She trotted along a ten miles an hour, just like a metronome. Perked the other two up and got them going again. Dressy just stays in that nice steady trot up hills, down hills, around corners, over logs, past rocks…. oh wait… maybe not past rocks. She does have some spook in her 🙂

All three horses completed with no issues other than being very hot. We had to cool the two big dark horses fairly aggressively and give Dressy some extra electrolytes to get her heart rate under control at the first check. But that’s pretty normal for her. Shorty was obviously very fit, but he got really scary hot at one point (due to his size, colour, and winter coat leftovers most likely). But once we cooled him down at the water trough he was okay again. Jingles stayed reasonably cool and definitely handled the heat better. He’s a grey which helps, and looks more like an Arab so probably has that metabolism.

It was a graded Set Speed ride, but none of our three made a grade. Just got completions. The heart rates were fine, but we went too slow to score well. Almost everyone else was the same though. I think only 2 or 3 horses actually made a grade. It was just too hot too go faster. It was a good ride. No disasters, nice horses, and the trilliums were gorgeous.

Diego is Now a Real Endurance Horse

Diego is now officially an endurance horse. He finished his first 50 on Saturday. I think Misha is pretty emotional about it. He looked very good afterwards and Misha said that she had lots of horse all day. He looked very good when I saw him an hour or two after the finish.

They went very slowly, even slower than Misha wanted to go, because she elected to ride with two other riders. They started out at the same speed, the other two horses started having trouble with the heat, and Misha stayed back with them as they slowed down. It was a brutal day, due to the high humidity. It was the hottest day so far this year, so no one… horses or people…. were used to it yet. The actual temperature wasn’t nearly as high as mid-summer temps, but a lot of the horses still had some winter coat. Misha had a problem with it herself at one check, and had to have someone else vet Diego. I haven’t seen his vet card yet, but it sounds like he did well through all the checks. He’s a tough little horse.

Diego belonged to friends of mine who bought him at an auction a couple of years ago. The auctioneer swore that he was a Quarter Horse, which is ridiculous. He’s as Arab as can be. He was quite feral initially. My friends had him for about a year. They had some basic training put on him, and fed him up (he was pretty scrawny). Then found they had too many horses and passed him along to me. I gave him to Misha last year and she’s been working very hard with him ever since. He’s come a long way in a couple of years. And he looks like a different horse. He’s developed a topline, become more confident, learned manners (mostly) and has fitted up amazingly well.

I’m very proud of them both. Congratulations!!!!

Spring Ride

King, Dressy, and Diego are all set up in their quarters at the ride. I shipped them over yesterday, and left them in Misha’s care for the night. Then came home so I could go to work this morning. Brooke is meeting me here at around noon and we’ll head back over. It’s about an hour and a half to the east, so all this back and forth with the truck in the past week has cost a fortune in gas (the truck has a 7.5L gas engine).

Dressy was being quite an arrogant bitch yesterday. I hope she’s settled down. She knows when she’s at a competition (they all know), and can get a bit attitudinal. She dragged Misha around willy-nilly while I was trying to get her paddock set up. Smashed into her once. Misha finally stuck her in the half built, unelectrified paddock to get rid of her and just grazed King (who was mild-mannered and amiable with grass to eat). Dressy stomped over to her fresh bucket of water (laboriously obtained from Bob’s barn and trucked over to the field) and dumped it. I had to leave, but I told Misha not to give her another bucket for an hour or two. When the mare is in that kind of a mood, she’ll just keep dumping buckets so there’s no point. She’ll be much happier this afternoon when Brooke comes to fawn over her.

The chiropractor is supposed to come to the ride site this afternoon, and King is booked for an appointment. Rob came over to help me with the electric fencer, and noticed King… “Who is that horse?” I told him it was King of course (thinking that non-horsey Rob was just being dense). But he said that he looked different… “thin!” Oh BLESS Rob. He actually noticed King’s newly svelte self. He’s the only one who has so far this spring.

If all goes well, Dressy will be in the 25 mile Set Speed ride on Saturday with Brooke, and King will do the 34 mile CTR on Sunday. I will ride with Brooke on Saturday on Deb’s horse Shorty. He’s a Standardbred/Arab cross, and seems like a good boy. Set Speed is sort of like LD in the US. But uses a formula that combines speed and final pulse for a placing or grade. Thus the fastest horse doesn’t necessarily win. Competitive Trail (CTR) is more like a rally. The time is set so that horses have to travel at an average of 6 mph which includes a mid vet check stop (clock does not stop for checks). Metabolics and trail/tack lesions are also scored. The CTR we have in Ontario is not like NATRC though. We don’t do any trail manners or obstacles. It’s strictly based on time and vet check results.

Video of the Spring Ride Trail

Here is the video of the trail at Spring Ride in the Ganaraska Forest. This is on the 25 mile loop (orange ribbons). This clip is from the pond (which is a few miles into the loop), and has been edited down to about 10 minutes from the original 20 minute clip. Nothing particularly exciting happens. But it’s fairly typical of the footing and trail conditions of that entire loop.