Doc and Phoenix

Here is a photo of Doc Watt with Phoenix (Garock) taken in 1999. Phoenix was Di Regendanz’s lovely old Arab gelding. He and Di competed in many OCTRA competitive trail rides and were extremely successful.  Phoenix passed away a few years ago at the age of 31. Doc Watt’s funeral was today. He was 81. He was Phoenix’s vet for most of the horse’s life (27 years).

Going Forward

King was quite forward today. As in snort-brained, bratty, want to gallop wildly forward. Sigh. He’s an all or nothing kind of horse. I guess the good news is that unlike the old days, I actually DO have brakes now. He will stop when I demand it. But what I don’t seem to have is nice steady speed control when he’s like this. I ask for trot and get maybe six steps and then he starts wanting to canter. I can keep him down to a trot, but it requires focus and constant reminders. If I let him canter, he has little rushes of energy that I have to check instantly or we go into maximum overdrive. You would think that with all the miles of trail this horse has, he’d be over that sort of giddy behaviour.

I’ve begun to wonder though if some of the Jekyll and Hyde switches between the galloping fool, and the lazy plug have been related to the muscle issues. He has probably had a borderline deficiency for much of his life, since he’s never really gotten enough selenium until now. If the laziness was caused by sore muscles (either actual cramps or muscle soreness from having had cramps), then maybe he’s just mostly a galloping fool. Scary thought actually… maybe I just won’t think about that any more…

I’m going to try to ride him every day between now and the Seoul’s Corners ride. Hopefully we can do a slow 25 there and finish without muscle cramps. Apparently my friend’s husband is going to ride their young horse, Seneca at that ride, and needs a slow mentor. So I’ve been elected to shepherd them through. It will be Rob’s first 25 miler. He’s done Ride n Tie, but never more than 12 miles, of which half would have been running on foot. So 25 miles will be a big deal for him. It will also be Seneca’s first 25. He’s a placid sort of horse though, so I don’t think he’ll be difficult. Just really tired 🙂

King needs to have his selenium tested again. But sadly my vet died last week. So I am going to have to find a new vet to take over monitoring this. And the other vets that I know of around here are really quite expensive. I am presenting at the training ride on Aug 20. So I will have to see if Dr. Kivi will be there. She can probably pull blood while he’s there, since I’m taking him to mentor beginners on the trail loop after the talks are over.


Champs Day 2

Here are some more photos from the Championship ride this weekend. These were taken today….

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Champs Day 2, posted with vodpod

Ontario CTR Champs

Here are some photos that I took yesterday at the Ontario Competitive Trail Championships. Day two is today, so more pics later probably.

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Blooming Foxy

When I was crewing at the ride this past weekend, I happened to look up towards the gate and noticed a beautiful glossy black horse going out on trail. It took me a moment to recognize her. It was my little darling Foxy.

Back when I worked as a Standardbred groom, one of my charges was Foxy Baronessa. She was a pacing filly by Rambaran. Black, dainty, and rather timid. She didn’t have a lot of talent, and as the least experienced groom in the barn, I got the “worst” horses. Always the fillies with no talent. They were sensitive and sort of withdrawn when I got them. So I babied them. And Foxy ADORED being babied. She gave me kisses when I arrived in the morning, and nipped me in a jealous snit if I groomed another horse in front of her stall. She turned into quite a little princess with me, though was always shy of strangers.

Like many Standardbreds, Foxy was remarkably steady-minded. One time, I had her on the cross-ties (rickety ties held together with bits of wire and binder twine) at the barn door. So she was standing with her head and neck outside, and body inside while I hooked up the jog cart. It was winter and there was a lot of snow on the roof. There was a whoosh, and Foxy suddenly reared up about a foot – just a little baby rear – and I looked up to see her head and neck covered in crusty wet snow. The entire roofload of snow had landed on her. She looked pretty concerned. But stood while I brushed the remainder off her. She settled right away, and I jumped on the cart and we headed out for our usual half hour jog. I was totally impressed that a three year old fit racehorse would stand so well in a situation like that.

In harness, she looked completely misplaced. She was only 14.3hh, with an Arab-type head. Pacers are generally fairly unbending, since the pace itself requires that they stiffen/hollow their back muscles, raise their heads and rock from side to side. Foxy definitely paced (and racked… and slow-gaited… and trotted and cantered for that matter), but she also tucked her nose, arched her neck, and flexed around corners. The trainer used to call her “that damned rubber-necked filly”. It got in the way of her racing career, since she would turn her head and neck during a race, but would drift outward anyway. Frustrated her drivers no end.

Anyhow, Foxy washed out as a racehorse and I got the okay to try to market her as a riding horse. I’d had the perfect person in mind for Foxy for months before that. A longtime rider who had been in a serious accident that shattered her ankle. She was told never to ride again, and had to give up riding her lovely but spooky Arab mare. She was still determined to ride though. This is someone who is very soft and gentle with her horses. Possibly even too gentle for some horses. Perfect for Foxy though. If there was ever a horse who needed to be adored, it was Foxy.

First though, I figured I’d better back the filly. So I brought my tack from home and worked with her. She was a bit alarmed when I stood up on a bucket beside her, but otherwise was very accommodating. I had someone lead her up and down the barn aisle (long barn… 40 stalls or so) with me on her back. Then I rode her by myself up and down the barn. She felt like a dressage horse. Tucked herself into a frame. Bent beautifully at the end of the barn. Stayed quiet and balanced. Soft as butter.

Her destiny came to see her later that day. Watched her do her dressage pony routine. And fell in love with her, thank goodness. Foxy has blossomed in her new career. She’s gotten a little taller. Filled out. Developed some presence.

Because of her ankle, her owner can’t ride as far or as fast as she used to. But Foxy takes good care of her and carried her to her 3000 mile award. Foxy only has a little over 150 miles. But they have been important miles.

Foxy’s mileage page

Here’s a photo of Foxy from a couple of years ago…

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.

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.

More Trail Inspection

Yesterday I rode King to inspect the 25 mile loop. We actually only did 17 miles, since we were able to skip some sections of trail that I’d already ridden. David rode with me today on Allieena. She looked good after her downhill somersault the other day. Doesn’t appear to be lame or sore at all. Tough little horse.

It was a very uneventful ride, thank goodness. Other than King trying to spook me off once or twice. There are trilliums coming up all over the place, and the forest is beginning to leaf out a little bit.  There were a few sprinkles of rain throughout the day. But right at the end, just as we were coming down the road to Bob’s place, it really started to rain. So we were glad to be nearly done at that point.

Here’s the GPS track:

I found the trail to be very fast. There were a lot of long sections with really good footing and mostly long, flatter grades (not easy necessarily because they go on a long way, but not steep). King seemed to want to gallop much of it, and I suspect that the faster endurance horses are going to really smoke this trail. The footing is almost entirely sand, and with all the rain it is quite packed. There are a few gravelly sections but most are on short little hills and last only a fifty or a hundred feet. As long as you didn’t want to go really screaming fast, I’d think you could do this loop barefoot or just in front boots/shoes if you wanted. Same goes for the 17 mile loop. Dressy was barefoot on that, and just had to slow down for a few of the gravelly hills. The 9 mile loop has more gravel and would be a bit slower.

I have a helmet cam video clip of some of the trail, but it’s taking forever to upload to YouTube. So I’ll put it up around lunch time when I come home from work.

Tumbling Horse and Way Too Much Exposure

Hauled Dressy and King over to the Ganaraska Forest today. I have to pre-ride (safety check) the trails for Spring Ride. So today we did the 17 mile loop. Here’s the GPS track (though it’s not exact… there are a couple of minor changes to be made):

Chrystal was riding Bob’s horse, Allieena. Bob rode Kitty. And I rode Dressy. The trail is really nice. It was raining, and even wet, the footing is good and not particularly slippery. Dressy is barefoot, and other than a couple of short hills that had some sharp gravel, she was very comfortable.

We did have one very spectacular incident on a downhill. Dressy was in front, trotting. Chrystal was just behind on Allieena. I heard a bit of a shriek from Chrystal and pulled up fast and looked around to see Allieena going ass over teakettle in a complete forward somersault. Chrystal rolled fast to get out of the way, so luckily the mare didn’t flip over on top of her.  We found a hole that they had stepped into. It looked like it had caved in when she’d stepped on it.  I certainly never saw it when we went over it, and I was looking down at the footing along there because we were on a downhill. So we think Allieena actually broke through. Chrystal put a big stick into it to mark it and Bob is going back to fix it. Allieena and Chrystal both seemed to be okay afterwards.

There were a lot of trees down. Quite a few had been cleaned up already. Rob and Rod were out on the ATV with a chainsaw clearing the rest. But we got ahead of them on the horses, and got to a spot where we had to go under quite a large downed tree. There was a big broken branch sticking out. I tried to go under with Dressy and push the branch away. But it was stronger than I expected, and my reins caught in it which brought Dressy to a complete halt. But then I realized that we couldn’t back up either because the branch had snapped down behind my pommel pinning my right leg between branch and saddle. The mare literally couldn’t move an inch (she didn’t panic… such a superstar!). I finally managed to get the reins unhooked. But still couldn’t back up because of the branch wedged behind the pommel. So I had to go forward. The branch wasn’t bending, and it snagged my breeches and nearly torqued me right out of the saddle. Dressy staggered, but managed to stay upright and I stayed on. It also ripped a huge hole in my breeches from just over my right hip bone all the way around across my rear end. Bob, bless him, pointed out that I was quite exposed. Which I’d already figured out. Chrystal said it was good that I’d chosen to wear black underwear since it sort of went with the breeches. I pointed out that I was grateful to be wearing underwear of any colour at all. Then I pulled out my rain poncho and tied it around my waist and draped it down over my butt. Ended up with quite a charley horse in my right calf too. Not sure why exactly… but it hurt for a good five miles. There were some ATV riders who came along behind us with a chainsaw just then, and they proceeded to clear the tree away. So that hazard is gone already.

It’s going to be a fun trail. Probably quite fast. But there are a lot of hills, mostly gradual and long with good footing.