Dressy Beat the Heat

Got back from the Seoul’s Corners ride late last night. I left before the 75 and 100 mile horses finished. But I hear that Patti Stedman won the 75. Elaine Steele won the 100. Michelle Bignell and Allieena won the 50. Pat St. Jean and Black Bart’s Perfect won Best Condition. Ron Savard won High Vet Score.

Chrystal’s mare, Grace had a little mishap on a slippery bit of rock and fell just after the start of the fifty. Grace was a bit sore at first, then sorted herself out. But by the end of the second loop she was stiffening up a little, so they were pulled. She was well-behaved and reasonably steady and fast. So I think Chrystal was pleased with that at least, despite the bad luck.

Dressy was wonderful. We did the 25 miles. I had hoped that this ride would be cooler and more to Dressy’s taste. But that was not to be. The high was 27C, but the humidity averaged 83%, with a high of 100%. I had sweat running in my eyes even before I got on her for an 8am start. Luckily, the humidity went down a little bit on the second loop. Otherwise it would have been a lot tougher on Dressy.

She put on a bit of a show for the spectators before the start. We were waiting for Savanah (the junior who rode with me) to finish tacking up her arab, Merlin. Dressy was going around and around in circles, so I decided to trot her up towards the start and back. But she thought it would be better to thunder up there at a gallop. Then she thought it’d be great fun to crowhop back down again. All of this in front of spectators with cameras. Of course.  I growled at her and she stopped. She’s not generally bad, but the start is a very exciting time for her. She did settle though and managed to walk out fairly politely once we hooked up with our junior and went out on trail.

Although I was wilting (and by later in the ride… stupid) from the heat, Dressy was forward and alert for the entire first loop. Her first vet check was perfect. All A’s and a 10/10 CRI (cardiac recovery index). She didn’t even seem all that hot at that point. Just hungry and thirsty.

She went along very well for most of the second loop too. (If you look at the video, most of it was taken on the second loop, and you can see her perky ears.) Until I got lost. Though of course I didn’t know I was lost. Dressy sure did. She suddenly went flat and refused to trot. I thought the heat was getting to her. But no… her rider’s idiocy was getting to her. We walked for a while before I realized something was wrong. Then backtracked. And went past the elusive turn the other way. Walked some more (Dressy was NOT going to trot in the wrong direction – she’s no fool). I finally resorted to looking at my GPS and turning on the “Return to Home” function. That worked. Of course. Made the correct turn (the red turn ribbon had wrapped around the tree branch so I couldn’t see it), and Dressy miraculously recovered enough to want to gallop. She was very pleased to get to the water trough. Not nearly so pleased when I made her go back out of camp for the final five mile loop. I had to send Savanah ahead with Merlin. He trotted along, dragging a reluctant and increasingly hot Dressy to another water trough about 3 miles from the finish. I cooled her rather frantically and she did look a lot better after that. Then we turned back for camp and Dressy perked up a little. Still hot, but she was still willing to trot. And in the last mile, she was back to alternating trot and gallop. Good thing too… we crossed the finish line 2 minutes before the cutoff time.

Took the full 30 minutes to get her temperature and heart rate down. Chrystal and a very nice and very helpful boy whose name I cannot remember were a great help sponging Dressy. I was not all that functional by then. I think I drank about three iced teas out of my cooler without stopping. Then stood in a bit of a stupor for a while. Chrys said I looked way worse than my horse.

Her pulse was 16 (in 15 seconds… so 64 bpm which was the parameter she needed to meet) when I took her in. The vet (Stan) said her heart sounded nice and steady. When they are tired, their heart rate speeds up and slows down, so that was a good sign. Cap refill, etc were good. She had to come back for a gut sound check (so did Merlin… and quite a few other horses) as she was down in two quadrants. As soon as she ate though, she was completely fine. Merlin was also fine once he was rechecked.

This was Merlin and Savanah’s first 25 miler. He looked great all the way through. They had a little boot issue in the first mile and elected to go barefoot the rest of the way. It didn’t look to me as though he had any problem at all with the footing. He must have very good feet. Nice little horse. They both looked good at the end. Savanah should be very proud. Especially considering that they probably actually went 30+ miles due to their sponsor getting lost and leading them astray.

It was WAY too hot and humid. Given the conditions, I cannot believe Dressy did so well. She actually looked good at the end. Hot, but still bright-eyed and alert. Still spooking at things. Jumping around
when water went on her. Looking to eat other horses’ dinners. She ate three meals out at the first check (Grace’s, her own, and Harley’s). Ate two meals at the end. Plus a bunch of hay. Some carrots. A bucket
of water. More hay. Treats. The vaccuum that ate the world…

The drive home was fairly awful. It started raining shortly after I pulled onto the highway. It came and went all the way home. Sometimes quite torrential, which made driving difficult between the dark and the water on the road, and the stupid drivers who think nothing of cutting off vehicles with limited stopping power. I got home safely four hours later and unloaded a very bright-eyed and bouncing Dressy. Then did a relieved face plant in my bed.

Today’s Rides

I brought King in and checked him over. It was pretty obvious that it was going to be one of his bad days. His hind end was quite tight all over. Both sides. No actual cramping that I could see, but just generally hard muscles.

Tacked him up and went for a short ride. He needs to go out for a bit of exercise every day. But I’m letting him dictate the pace. Today was walking only, he told me. A couple of times I asked him to trot and he stopped dead when I suggested it. So okay. He walked. We did a very slow and boring one mile loop around the back field. But towards the end he agreed to trot for a short stretch. It was on the way home of course. But even then he had no energy. Just a little western pleasure jog.

After finishing up with King, I brought Dressy in and tacked her up. Whole different story there. Dressy is cheerful and glowing with good health. She seemed happy to go out, though a bit speedy. I managed to get her settled into a steady, relatively slow trot (slow for a Standardbred anyway!) after a few zigzaggy moments. She had good heart rates, and felt strong and forward but not crazy. That ride on Sunday seems to have sharpened her up quite well. All those years of racing really pay off, even now, in how fast she fits up.

I didn’t have a lot of time, since I had to get back to work to feed this evening. So I only rode her for 45 minutes. But we managed to do five and half miles.

I am praying for cool weather on Sunday. We are going to try to do the 25 at Seoul’s Corners this weekend. I’m also praying for no rain until Sunday. Dressy would be better off if it rained during the ride itself. But for once, I’m not going to wish for that. The fates seem to be against that ride. It always seems to rain either before or during weekend, which can make for boggy trails. It’s too bad, because the trails are quite beautiful around Sharbot Lake. It’s up in the Canadian Shield, and there is lots of rock and lakes everywhere.

 

Small Emergency, Big Head

I was mowing the lawn this afternoon on the big riding mower. Cruising around in the sun. Looked over at the horses and thought “Gee, Ares is acting a bit strangely”. Then thought “Gee, why does Ares head look so odd?”. Ares was looking quite distressed actually. So I jumped off the mower and went over to investigate. His head was looking a bit swollen. And as I watched, it seemed to be getting way more swollen. And bumps were coming up all over his body. I suddenly realized he was having quite a severe allergic reaction to something. He was very glad to see me (well… when he turned so he left eye was looking at me anyway… not sure he could see out of his right eye by then), and was extremely happy to be led into the barn and into a nice safe box stall. It appears that he probably ran into a nest of yellowjackets out in the pasture somewhere and got multiple stings. I put Zamaluck in beside him, and then called the vet.

I could see the swelling increasing as I watched, and at one point felt a bit alarmed that possibly his nostrils would swell shut. His muzzle got really enormous and he did start to whistle a bit as he breathed. I had to loosen his halter, as it started looking like it would get too tight with all the swelling. The photo at left was taken after the swelling had come down very considerably.

I tried cold hosing him. But I had forgotten that his previous owner had warned me of his fear of hoses. That was definitely NOT happening. So I got a bucket instead and sponged him with cold water while I waited. I don’t know if it really helped, but it seemed like a safe treatment anyway. And I could tell that he liked it. He’s really a sweetheart. He wanted me to help him, and was actively asking for comfort. Resting his forehead against me and following me around the stall.

The vet called back and had me give banamine (a painkiller), dexamethasone (a steroid), and an antihistamine. I had to run down to the farm where I work to steal the dex and the antihistamine. But gave him banamine before I left. He looked quite a bit more comfortable already by the time I got back. And once I got the dex and the antihistamine into him, it was amazing how quickly the swelling started coming down. He seems to be much more comfortable and looks a good deal more like a horse and less like something out of the black lagoon now.

He’s out with Zamaluck in the round pen for a couple of days so I can keep an eye on him and continue giving him antihistamines. Zam seems quite concerned about his beloved friend’s health and well being.

Zamaluck is 11 years old and has never had a friend before. In his entire life. Ares likes him, and Zamaluck is totally besotted. They go everywhere together. Quite literally. Check out the photos of them grazing together a couple of days ago (before the swollen head).

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Dressy At Summer’s End

Yesterday I took Dressy (and Diego as well) to Summer’s End Training Ride over in Bailieboro, Ontario, which is just on the edge of the Ganaraska Forest. It’s a very pretty area, with lots of hills.

In the morning we had the clinic portion. First Marg Murray and Marion Shearer gave an overview presentation of the different disciplines that OCTRA offers… Endurance, Competitive Trail, Ride n Tie, Set Speed, and Mileage rides. Each has slightly different rules, but the training is essentially the same for the horses. It’s the equivalent of human marathon training.  After Marg and Marion were finished, Dr Kathy Kivi talked about electrolytes and horse health.

Rose Danko gave an explanation of Set Speed rules. It’s a new discipline in OCTRA, and not well understood by most members. But basically it’s between 10 and 50 miles. A speed range is set, depending on competition level. Yesterday’s ride was between 4 and 7 mph. In a graded ride, the competitors are awarded grades depending on the combined score of pulse and speed. A low pulse and a high speed will give you the best grade. Grades are, from highest to lowest, 1, 2, 3, 4, or completion.

After Rose was done, I gave a quick demonstration of how to present your horse to the judges and what the horse health check is all about. I’m a lay judge when I’m not competing myself. Which means that I perform vet checks at competitions (under the supervision of the head veterinarian).

Finally, Julie Green gave a presentation on hoof care and booting. She’s an EasyCare distributor and her husband is a barefoot trimmer. There seemed to be lots of interest in the topic.

The weather was horribly hot. The temperature was 27 C, but humidity was 95%. It was just awful. Heat has always been a problem for Dressy, so that was not a good sign.

Dressy and I sponsored Solstice in the Ride n Tie. Her little mare was quite excited, so I ponied them out the first little bit of the loop until we got into the forest and she could tuck her in behind Dressy to keep her slowed down. She’s a cute little horse, but was a little bit boggled by all the excitement.

The little mare was not the only horse boggled… Diego threw a hissy fit when his boss mare left. I could hear Misha yelling at him as we disappeared into the trees. I heard later that his initial vet check was very out of control. Though I think he improved through the day.

Solstice and her dad won the ride n tie. The other team, Michelle and her daughter Cassandra, were right behind us. Dressy and I won a $10 Tim Horton’s gift certificate for sponsoring the winners, which was nice.

Dressy’s vet checks in the ride n tie were good. No problems. We went back out to do the 15 mile Set Speed ride shortly afterwards. We sponsored Laura, who was riding Sue Downing’s 19 year old Arab mare, Holly. (I just looked it up, and I think that Holly just got her 1000 miles yesterday!)

There were three 5 mile loops, with the option (since it was a training ride) to stop after any loop and take that mileage. Dressy did well on the first loop. Good heart rates. At the first check, she drank well and was absolutely starving. She vetted through fine. I tacked her back up (with some help from Julie – who was a big help to everyone at the checks) and led her over to let her drink and suddenly she started acting like she wanted to drop and roll. Immediately I had a total panic attack, thinking she must be colicky. Ripped the tack back off her and took her back over to the vet (jumping the line in the process). The vet checked her over, but couldn’t find anything wrong. She wasn’t trying to roll, and had gut sounds all around. The vet thought that maybe she’d had a bit of a gas bubble or something. So we tacked back up and went out again for our second 5 mile loop.

For the first couple of miles she seemed fine. Then I thought she seemed a little less forward. I checked her heart rate and found that it wasn’t registering on the watch. The monitor had shifted a bit under the girth and wasn’t reading. I reached down and tinkered with it and started getting some intermittent readings. None of them very good. Mostly up in the 140 to 160 range. They may or may not have been valid readings, but I was a bit worried. So I told Laura we needed to walk for a while. Eventually I got more reliable readings and she seemed to have dropped down to a more reasonable level. By the time we hit the end of that five miles, I thought that she might have stopped sweating, which really worried me. She felt extremely hot to the touch. So I figured we were probably done for the day.

At the check, she had a nice low pulse… 36. The judge noted that she was skipping heart beats, which is something she normally does, so of no concern. But she skipped for a bit longer than usual and several times during the 15 second count (she was trying to nap at the time). And when she trotted out for her CRI (cardiac recovery index), she woke up again. Second count was 14. Which is very very bad. The judge pointed out that it was just because she did not skip any beats on the second count, but Dressy has had enough 9/9 CRIs that I know there is no excuse for a 9/14. Her trot out was a bit wonky for a couple of steps, but the vet watched it on a second trot and decided that it was just a bit of toe-dragging and not a lameness. She got a completion. But probably only because I was not going on for another loop.  She was very hungry at that check too, and gobbled up every bit of food she could find. Drank well all day. Had lots of electrolytes.

I really think she was suffering from heat exhaustion. She has never done well when it was hot. And I think that the heat and humidity wiped her out. She was completely herself again within about half an hour. The vet checked her over once more and found nothing wrong. She had gut sounds all the way around all day. Came off the trailer at home looking good. Looks good today.

And, despite all the worry… she ended up taking a grade 1 in the 10 mile set speed ride. Her final pulse was 36 and average speed was 6mph. So by the numbers, she did really well.

I sent Laura back out for the third loop with Marg, and they did finish the 15 miles. Which gave Holly her long-awaited 1000 miles. Holly has been out of competition for a few years due to a very bad injury that Sue suffered. It was bad enough that she was told never to ride again, and so gave up riding Holly, who can be a bit of a handful (especially if there are cows in the vicinity!). Sue now rides the lovely and very quiet Foxy, who is one of my rehomed Standardbreds. This year, Holly has been ridden by a junior rider and has been creeping up on the 1000 mile mark. She sure was cheerful out on trail. You can tell that Holly just loves going down the trail. She looked like a five year old bouncing along out there.

Diego had an excellent day. He has no problems with heat. In fact he’s one of those crazy Arabs who gets cold if you put too much water on him. He did the 15 miles fast enough that he had to wait a while before the finish line so he didn’t get disqualified for finishing too fast. His final pulse was 40 and average speed was just under 7mph. So he got a grade 1 as well (in the 15 mile Set Speed).

Chrystal’s horse Grace finished her first ride too. She also got a grade 1 (Chrystal and Misha rode together… galloping like a pair of hooligans). Grace came off the Arab racetrack and her brain has been a bit of a problem. But Chrystal said she did well. No meltdowns. Of course that could be just because they went fast enough that brakes weren’t all that necessary 🙂

New Vet

I had a new vet in today to look at King. Doc Watt was going to come this week to test his selenium levels, but of course, that wasn’t possible. I called in a vet that I’ve used in the past, Dr. Potter. He’s very calm and takes his time, which is nice. He had a really good look at King. Checked him over, watched him trot, listened to our tale of woe, etc. King has actually seemed a bit worse over the last couple of weeks, not better. So I’ve been worried. Dr. Potter is going to run a full blood panel, check the selenium, and also do a thyroid test. He has some other ideas for things to check out if the blood work doesn’t show anything. So at least I feel like we are doing something anyway.

I’ve started riding Dressy. I’ll take her to the training ride next week and do the 15 mile set speed ride. Then to Seoul’s Corners and we can do the 25 miles there. I guess I’m going to have to sort out booting issues for her too.

Ares had another session of lunging today. This time with the saddle on. He was very good, but I could see that he was a little weirded out by the feel of the saddle. He was a bit more inverted, and his gait got a little choppy as a result. But after a few minutes he gradually relaxed and dropped his head some. As soon as that head comes down, he smooths right out.

After we were done, I brought him back in the barn and got up on a stool beside him. Flapped around the saddle, rested my arm across him, flopped the stirrups around, pushed and pulled sideways, etc. He was watching me pretty carefully, but he stood like a rock. He really is a nice little soul once he gets over thinking that I’m prepping him for my next meal.

 

Ares’ Second Training Session

I’ve put up a video of Ares from yesterday’s lunging session. As you can see, he’s rushing a little bit. But he is a nice mover. Fast and flowing. He settled down after a few minutes and was very responsive to my voice.

Ares First Lesson

Well. Just.. Wow.

I’ve been a little concerned about Ares and whether he might be difficult to work with. He’s a little on the worried, timid side, and I’m used to my big brash horses (I do tend to pick that sort of horse for myself… high, wide, and handsome). Ares is a cautious horse. Very shy with strangers. So I’ve put off working with him for a few weeks to let him settle in.

Tonight I cleaned him up and tacked him up in a surcingle and bridle and took him out to teach him to lunge. He was obviously a bit panicky at first, and very rushy (as an aside, he burst into a quite credible canter several times – which bodes well for his ability to canter under saddle). He was very worried about what I was asking for. But does he ever respond well to praise and encouragement. Tell him he’s a good boy and you can see him settle instantly. I managed to get him settled enough to put side reins on him (albeit quite loosely). And took this little short video clip of him trotting. He went from panic to pro (well okay, not quite “pro”, but pretty good anyway!) in about 10 minutes. I am feeling much more confident in this boy after this session. I think he’s going to make a very nice, and extremely responsive horse for the right person.

I put the measuring stick on him and he’s just barely 15hh. So he’s not a big horse. Though he moves quite big as most Standardbreds do. He looked pretty smooth to me, though it’s hard to tell just watching.

Check out the video…

 

Ares is Greatly Improved, King Not So Much

Ares is vastly improved after his allergic reaction. When I checked him again last night, his head looked normal. He has a little swelling remaining under his chin, and also between his hind legs. But that seems to be it. He’ll be on antihistamines for another day. I have both Ares and Zamaluck in the round pen for now, so I can keep a close eye on Ares.

He was very funny when I got home from work. Linda came to see him too, and he was a sap. Lapping up the sympathy, resting his head on my shoulder, begging for face rubs. He moved back and forth between Linda and I, working his audience perfectly. Looking appropriately big-eyed and sad when we said “Poor Ares!” It’s taken this horse a while to settle in, but he’s turning into quite a pet. He’s going to need to go to someone who really likes to spend time with a horse, because he’s going to be just like a friendly dog with the right person.

King and I went out for a short ride in the evening. Nothing taxing. He felt reasonably good when he was moving, but he did stop a couple of times. His latest selenium levels are back up in the mid-normal range. So that’s been dealt with. But he’s still not right.

So we are trying him on the EPSM (aka PSSM) diet. Equine Polysaccharide Myopathy is a muscle disorder that mostly occurs in draft breeds and Quarter Horses. But it can occasionally crop up in Arabs. The correct way to diagnose it is with a muscle biopsy. But given my vet bills this year, I’m putting off the biopsy and just trying the diet. EPSM horses sometimes have a fairly dramatic improvement on the diet so it should be a fairly good diagnostic tool in itself.

The down side is that the diet consists of 20% of the total diet coming from fat. So King’s hay and pasture have been cut back to control the calorie intake. He is getting a meal in the morning and the evening (you would not believe the drama involved – King is beside himself with joy at getting meals) of beet pulp, roughage cubes, and a cup of oil. Then he is staying in the stall all night with one measly flake of hay. He doesn’t care though, he loves his stall. And he gets MEALS! He actually pushes the beet pulp aside so he can suck up the water and oil directly. It’s absolutely revolting to watch him eat. Ugh.

He is going to have to stay in work though. No matter whether he gets muscle cramps or not. I’m terrified that he’s going turn into a great giant marshmallow of a horse on this much oil.