Too Much Careening

Brooke and Dressy finished the 25. Dressy was quite tired. Her pulse was going up and down at the end. She had two minuses on her gut sounds so got a B there. And her gums were a bit tacky, so mucous membranes were also a B. But she did get her completion, and given that she was really just barely fit enough to do this ride, that’s not too bad. Brooke had a wonderful time I think. She got her first ribbon and completion certificate. And Dressy, despite being tired, looked perfectly cheerful at the end. I think she enjoyed being back in competition.

Misha was extremely happy with how Diego did. He was very forward, and she felt that she had way more horse under her than at any of her rides last year. She said he was anxious to go for the entire 25 miles. He’s looking more and more like he’s going to be a very nice horse for her. There was one issue though… he tried to kick every horse that wanted to pass him. Luckily Misha had put a red ribbon in his tail, just in case. She also had a number of people tell her that he is looking better, with more topline this year. Which made her beam.

King was not quite so stellar in the 50 as those two were in the 25 though. When I got on him this morning, I knew instantly that I was going to have trouble with him. He bounced sideways, bucked, piaffed, and generally made an ass of himself before the start. We started after everyone else to try to reduce the race brain. But he knew they were all out there ahead of him and it just made him very angry. I’ve had a lot more braking power with the myler combo bit, but it still was not enough to slow him down today. I took advantage of his training (many years of having to walk all downhills) to get him down to a walk in a few spots. But the moment I asked for a trot, he would step into a canter, then just gradually (not all THAT gradually either!) speed up to a gallop and try to run away. I was in a tug of war with him for miles, and after only about six miles I started to worry that my strength was going to give out completely. My hands were numb, shoulders aching, and I was drenched with sweat even in the early morning cool temps. Eventually, the one horse that was behind us caught up (there were only 13 entries… very low turnout for this ride), and King settled down a lot. Towards the end of the loop though, he got away from me a bit again though. He knew he was nearly back at camp, and he just kept speeding up. He had quite a few little slips on this loop too. The footing is sand, but it’s been raining for days off and on, and there are quite a few leaves left on trail from last fall.

We passed the vet check after the first loop with no problems. The card was all A’s.  But I suspect we’d already done some damage from all the careening, spooking, and skids we’d done for that first 12 miles. His second loop was much more controlled, and he went very well for most of it. But somewhere around halfway, he started doing some odd things. He stopped a few times on downhills. Then started acting like he had to pee, but not actually peeing. Once he cross cantered for a few strides, which I cannot remember him ever doing in his life. He’s a naturally balanced horse and has always cantered on either lead equally. So the cross canter (wrong lead behind) was quite alarming. After a little while though, he seemed to sort it all out and went on pretty well. He cantered (correctly) for quite a bit of the later part of that loop. Though of course, in hindsight, I know that when he’s sore behind he chooses to canter more than trot. Anyway, I got into the check and went to the vet. As we got up to her, I stood at his head and noticed his left hind. He unweighted it completely for a moment, then touched the toe to the ground. Then lifted it again. Then touched the toe down. Then stood on it. I knew there was a problem and pointed it out to the vet. She asked us to trot, and I could see that he was lame behind even while I was running at his head. It was pretty bad. So we were pulled. Again. Argh.

The problem was easy enough to find. He is very sore in the hamstring muscles of his left hind. The vet came over and gave him a shot of banamine before we loaded up to go home. Just so he’d be a little more comfortable for the trailer ride. It did seem to help him get more comfortable. But he’s home in his stall now, and I can see that he’s still not weighting it as much as the other. So trailering was still probably a bit tough on him.

Oh and we had another boot failure. The right boot came off. Found it in his paddock this morning before we even started the ride. So at least it’s not lost. The back up was supposed to be one of my Easyboot Gloves with the new gaiter (only managed to get one, not both… the other is still enroute). However, when I tried to install the gaiter, I realized (after much struggle and angst) that the gaiter is too small for the boot. We went out with one boot on, and one off.

The new Christ saddle pad worked very well though. I used it without the inserts (tried them, but it seemed a bit unstable). King had no problems with rubbing, and the saddle sat nicely. Still love my Australian saddle too. Saved me quite a few times on that first loop as he zigzagged along.

My truck and trailer worked great. The truck tows easily. And the trailer tracks and rides very smoothly. Misha had a spare double mattress that she gave me, and it was very comfortable to sleep on. So my little cubby hole living quarters were a big success.

Getting Ready

I’ve been packing all day for the ride. There is now a nice mattress in over the gooseneck.  Almost all my stuff is loaded or ready to load. I hope that eventually I’ll have a lot of the stuff that I normally pack permanently stored in the trailer. Little stuff… flashlights, lip balm, sunglasses, pen and paper, logbooks, red tail ribbons, batteries, safety pins, scissors, etc.  And also bigger stuff… a campstove, folding chairs, fencing kit, etc.

Last night I glued King’s front boots on. That was a bit of a trial. It was my first time doing that. There’s not a lot of time before the glue gets tacky, so you have to be fast and accurate. I was neither. And I got frustrated. So King got anxious and started pawing. Which, because I was frustrated, made me yell at him. Strangely, that did not make him calm 🙁 Sometimes I’m not a genius. Sigh.  Oh well, I did get them on after a bit of struggle. They are aligned correctly, and fully seated. I just hope I used enough glue and that I got the heel bulb sealed properly. Next time I will start by applying the glue on the BACK of the foot, not the front. Once you have glue on the front wall, you can’t hold on to the foot anymore, so that was bad planning. The boots are still on (or they were when I last looked a couple of hours ago anyway), and he’s been running around in pretty muddy footing since this morning. I hope that doesn’t compromise the glue. Julie, the local EasyCare dealer, has promised me that it will get easier to glue the boots on as I get more practice. I sure hope so.

Misha and Brooke will be here in the morning to scrub and polish the horses while I’m at work. I’m sure the horses will be very shiny by the time I get home. We should be on the road just after lunch.

Obsessive

So, as usual I’m obsessing madly about everything in the week before a competition. King and I are entered in the Aprilfest 50 mile Endurance on Sunday.

The horse trailer is in getting the annual safety inspection (it needs tires for sure… hopefully nothing else!). The truck also needs it, but since it was inspected in February when it was plated, I am pretty sure it will pass without a problem. It will go in tomorrow or Thursday.

I picked up King, Dressy, and Diego’s coggins (or more correctly ELISA) paperwork this afternoon. We have our OEF, AERC, and OCTRA memberships up to date. So the paperwork is now done.

I also picked up the new Christ saddle pad from Baker’s Tack. Carmen gave me quite a good price on it actually. It always surprises me, but Baker’s often give me really good prices on special orders. I think of Greenhawk as the cheapest source for stuff. But a lot of the time they are just the source of the cheapest stuff. A slight, but important difference!

Anyway, the pad is lovely. It’s the treeless model, so it comes with foam inserts that slide into pockets on either side of the spine. The underside is full sheepskin. Top is heavy quilted cotton. It’s nicely contoured, so that it will not bind over King’s rather high withers. I’m hoping that it will work well with the Aussie saddle. That saddle was custom fitted to his width, but he’s been losing weight like crazy, and I can see the pommel dropping a bit, which is a worry. I hope I will be able to ride in it at least a couple of times before Sunday to see how well it works.

I’m making all kinds of lists of stuff to take to the ride. I don’t know if other people do this, but I always want to take every bit of horse gear I’ve ever owned, just in case. I have a wool quarter sheet that has gone along to nearly every ride he’s ever done. And it’s never been on him in his life. I end up with coolers, fly sheets, blankets, and rain sheets. Girths and reins and martingales. And I never need any of it. There are bottles of sunscreen in the bottom of some of my tubs that have never been opened (probably because I’d never find them in the bottom of a damn tub if I needed them anyway!).

I really hope that with this big trailer, I can get my stuff organized. Misha brought a big shoe organizer thingy that we’ve put up in the tack room for little stuff. I’ve just picked up some of those clips that hold broom handles. I saw a cool gadget on a trailer accessory website that was sort of like a cup holder for flashlights so that it can stay right inside the trailer door. What I don’t have is some sort of saddle rack. It will have to be easy to remove, because it will need to go in the fourth stall – which could, in theory, have a horse in it at some point. Stayed up way too late last night reading articles on organizing trailers, and browsing eBay and trailer websites.

Oh, and just because I don’t have enough other stuff to obsess over, I’m gluing boots on King for the first time at this ride. And it’s going to pour rain all week. Which means his feet will be soggy. Luckily, I poked around and found a heat gun in the farm tool room. Hopefully that will dry them out enough to let the glue set up properly.

If this post seems kind of scattered… well… that’s pretty much what my brain looks like this week!

Riding Goals for 2011

I’ve been thinking a lot about exactly what my goals will be for this coming year.

The most important thing to me at this point is just that we get in a full season. Not necessarily every single OCTRA ride, but most. An injury-free season.

Solving our boot issue is a another big one. We need to have a workable booting protocol before the first ride.

Reliable transportation was a big issue last year. So that’s a goal for this year. Though that one is pretty nearly solved.

I’d like King to be able to do at least three fifties. I’m aiming at Aprilfest on May 1 as our first this year.

And that each of those fifties have a slight time improvement over the previous rides. Not fast… just a little bit faster than the last one. Since our benchmark is 9 hours (which is how long Stormont took us), that should be within reach. I hope to NEVER do another 9 hour fifty 🙂

I’d like to do at least two CTRs. Most likely Summer Solstice and Flesherton. But also maybe Seoul’s Corners.

I feel pretty good about our progress so far. King is showing obvious signs of increased fitness. He’s losing weight and looking visibly more toned.

All the trails that I built last summer have been a huge help getting him fit. The entire loop of trails is 5.5 miles. We can’t do it all in winter… only about 4 miles of it is passable. But that’s a whole lot better than the half mile I had before.

I have a truck and a trailer (just need to install the gooseneck hitch in the truck). And although the truck is older, I really like it a lot. It is low mileage, and was used to go to Florida every winter. So it has no rust and is in excellent mechanical condition. It drives like a new truck. The trailer is a 4-horse head to head with a tack room. So I will be able to store all my tack and supplies in it for the season. And I can sleep over the gooseneck once I get a mattress in there.

The saddle that I got him last year (and that we did the fifty in) seems to be working very well. I’ve made some modifications to the flocking that have improved the fit even more.

And we have new boots on order. Glue Ons from EasyCare. As well as a pair of Gloves with the newer gaiters. So, with luck, that will fix his boot issues.

King’s goals are far simpler than mine. He’d like mints. Or oranges. Or… well food. Of some kind. Right now please? Do you SEE how handsome and downright irresistable I am?

Figuring Out Boots

King has been barefoot for his whole life, with the exception of a couple of months when he was four. He has a groove down the outside wall of his left front hoof. It’s from a nasty wire cut that left a deep scar through his coronet band. Mostly the groove is stable and stays closed. But if he hits a rock hard enough and just the wrong way, it will split open. Once it split so badly that the entire outside heel came loose. i thought perhaps shoes would help that. But shoes didn’t work very well for him. He seemed to torque them off regularly. Sometimes within a few hours. Sideclips helped. But in the end it just seemed way too expensive and way too reliant on having a capable farrier somewhere nearby to make it worth doing. So long as I manage the foot carefully, daylighting the groove and taking off any rough edges or chips nearby, the whole thing seems to stay closed and stable. And ripping shoes off that hoof regularly sure does not help it.

So we started using EasyBoots for particularly difficult footing. But boots haven’t always been a perfect solution either. We’ve had two boot incidents that were a bit disastrous. The first was at a ride years ago, when he was admittedly still a complete hooligan. A couple of horses passed us on trail, and he thought racing after them would be an excellent plan. I disagreed. He tried to bolt. I tried to block all that energy. So he went up and kinda sideways. Quite explosively. Then he abruptly tipped over. I smacked my head on the ground when we went down (yep… another smashed helmet… and concussion #2). He jumped up and ran after the horses that had passed him (he does like to have his way). I saw his boots on the ground. Somehow he’d managed to hook one boot up with the cable on the other boot. Literally got his feet tangled up, and that was why he’d fallen down. Trust King to come up with something that convoluted.

The second incident with regular EasyBoots happened just last fall. I tried Gloves instead of the old style boots for the summer, and they worked well. But then, in a fifty, the gaiters rubbed his pasterns very badly. He developed scratches that were still healing by the time Oktoberfest came around. So I went back to the old boots. The trail had a few minor washouts from rain. He got himself going around one corner too fast (okay, I know… I’m supposed to be the one in control here!) and sort of slithered sideways into a washout. He scrambled and bobbled hard. I slowed him up, but he seemed fine and we carried on trotting after a while. We were just a few miles from the end of the loop, and he was going along very well. Then perhaps a mile from the check, I felt a little bob for a few strides. Then it went away. We got into the check, and he was off at the trot out. It was very mild and looked initially like a hind end lameness. But once he stood around a while it became obvious that it was the front left. Then I had a closer look at his boot. All the screws had been ripped out of the inner wall of the boot. He’d apparently stepped on it during that scramble through the washout. And his ankle was swelling a bit too. He was completely sound and all the swelling gone in 24 hours, so luckily it was nothing serious. But it’s obvious to me that this horse really needs a low profile, form-fitting boot that he can’t catch with his other feet.

So. I’ve done some research and have ordered the newer style gaiter. EasyCare is supposed to have improved the gaiters so they don’t rub. Hopefully that will be the case and I can ride him in those for shorter conditioning rides. I also found some suggestions on Chris Martin’s Goober Glue blog that might help fix the gaiter problem. But for actual rides I think we are going to have to go to the Glue On boots. I just hope I can get that all figured out so that they stay on and work for him.

And of course… it just occurred to me that Brooke is riding Dressy this year. Ack!! I have to figure out her feet too now…