Saddle fit, wolf teeth and heaves

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Nancy & Mireyah with me & Khaleesi at a pretty water crossing
Nancy & Mireyah with me & Khaleesi at a pretty water crossing

We have been quiet but still active in the past week. Last weekend I rode Khaleesi for the first time with horses other than Faygo, and more than one other horse. She was great- she’s not used to being squished into the middle, or riding with another queenie mare so she copped an attitude once or twice and kicked out, but didn’t hurt anyone, and we tried to use the opportunity to teach better trail manners. She rode in all positions- front, middle and back and didn’t fuss too much about any of them. Was lots of fun- this girl always brings out a big smile for me!

Unusual for me to get out pre-dawn, but it sure was pretty!
Unusual for me to get out pre-dawn, but it sure was pretty!

Faygo’s new saddle arrived Monday evening! Though I had a busy week and we were expecting rain, I got out to the barn before dawn to make sure I got some good riding in it before the vet came Friday. I rode Faygo for a light ride, about an hour, every day Tuesday-Friday and thought the saddle seemed to fit her really well. It felt strange to be in a new position at first, and I worry I may have ordered the wrong size seat, but as I’m riding in it I find myself more and more comfortable. Our Saturday ride (yesterday) felt like it fit like a glove, so I’m a little conflicted if I should go up a size, or stay. The company has been incredible and will replace it with the next seat size for no extra charge.

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Faygo in her new saddle… notice the bare back hoof- we’ve lost ANOTHER hoof boot. That’s three in a month now!
Brown Campbell Saddle and Black (new) Phoenix Rising Saddle next to each other
Brown Campbell Saddle and Black (new) Phoenix Rising Saddle next to each other

The vet came on Friday and we looked at saddle fitting all around. The new Phoenix Rising saddle is a great fit for Faygo, and the Campbell (Paragon) saddle I used to use on Faygo is a great fit for Khaleesi (so we will ‘retire’ the black western saddle that I never quite felt comfortable in). Faygo and Khaleesi both have no sore spots, pain, or need for chiropractic adjustment. (YEAH!) and that is great news because Faygo had been a bit of a mess about a year ago so we are doing all the right things. She looks much better, her attitude is much better, and I love to know she is healthy….

…with one exception- we know she has a history of heaves (kind of like COPD in humans, or asthma). I have had her on “cough free”, an herbal supplement, for about a year now and that has made a huge difference, but I worry about her breathing under work. She breaths hard, but so does every human and animal when they are working hard. What is ok and what is dangerous is what I need to better understand. She has been doing well getting conditioned this winter, and has been in work for at least 6-7 years without any real longterm down-time – I ride all year long though some seasons we do longer rides than others. This means she is basically a fit athlete so the conditioning foundation is in place. The vet said that if her heaves are active she will probably never make a “competitive” endurance horse. (This is not news to me- it’s the reason I hadn’t considered endurance riding with her before I picked up Khaleesi). On the other hand, her heaves is a pretty mild case, and if the weather is not too hot and humid she may do just fine.

beautiful view from our Saturday day ride in early evening light.
beautiful view from our Saturday day ride in early evening light.

I decided to get more serious about researching supplements and checking in with the AERC board folks on this to see what they were saying. There are people running horses with allergies and mild heaves and I heard about more supplements that seemed to be helping them. There was also quite a discussion about panting and heavy breathing being “ok” (natural cooling process) vs. those who felt it was a bad sign and would immediately stop work until normal breathing was recovered. No one had an example of breathing alone (not paired with elevated heart rate and overheating) had caused harm to their horse. For now, we will participate in the 30 miler on Saturday, and I am 50/50 for guessing if we complete it or not. She may do fantastic, and she may just not be able to work in a healthy state and get pulled (or I may pull her myself if I have concern). It will depend a lot on the weather (heat/humidity) and how mountainous the course it. She does much better on long flats than climbing (though we ride the mountains here all the time- so we are not strangers to the climb). I am looking forward to going- meeting some AERC people, and getting some experience. Finish or not we will get something out of it and have a good time.

My 'hack job' partial clip of Faygo. She still has such thick winter hair that this will help her cool better as spring temps rise and we're working harder than usual.
My ‘hack job’ partial clip of Faygo. She still has such thick winter hair that this will help her cool better as spring temps rise and we’re working harder than usual.

As for supplements (in addition to the cough free) I decided to start with the lesser expensive Springtime DMG 5600 (cough free is herbal, the other is a supplement compound – DMG) that is supposed to help with better oxygen utilization, reduces lactic acid build up, strengthens immune response, and enhances stamina. I haven’t been too concerned because Faygo has been doing great in recent rides- we’ve gaited for a couple miles at a time around 9mph without any trouble- but yesterday we rode on the hottest day of the year so far, and considering we are expecting thunderstorms today it was humid as well. The temperature when we went out around 4pm was 80 degrees and though I went later in the day when it would continue to cool down, she absolutely had a harder time recovering her breathing than any other ride this year. (Thankfully I was able to shave her neck and belly – to help her cool off faster – when the dentist had her sedated!!).

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Though she seemed to have a harder time breathing, we still managed to ride over 8 miles with a moving speed of 5.3 and overall speed of 4.8 (this GPS shot is a little screwy because the owner of the farm we live on was in town and we stopped to chat with her and by the time I got the shot the numbers had adjusted). She was breathing hard, but she did not seem to be exhausted, overheated, or have issues with her gait, stumbling etc. These are signs that she’s not getting enough oxygen into the blood stream and thus lactic acid build up in her muscles. I am still suspect that we’ll be able to finish the ride in the time we’re given to do the 30 miles- especially if it’s hot. I took another look at the forcast for the ride next weekend. The high is supposed to be 55, and we start early in the morning so I hope that she will struggle less. Eighty degrees is basically summer weather for us, and I would say that if she does well in some LD (Limited Distance) riding- it’s likely I would avoid doing it from June-August entirely as it is just too hot and humid and that is what makes her more “heavey” and not recover her breathing as well.

First dental visit!
First dental visit!

As for our annual dental work- Stephanie from ProFloats did a great job with the girls. Faygo had routine maintenance to keep her jaw working properly, and Khaleesi had wolf teeth (kind of like wisdom teeth in humans- we generally take them out- not every horse has them, but if they do it interferes with the bit). This would explain why she’s been a little fussy with the bit, and why she gets crazy with me when I tighten the bridle to where I believe the bit is “supposed” to be but is ok with it when I let it down slightly – then she gets her tongue over top of the bit which is NOT good. She was probably looking for some relief from hitting those teeth back there. After about a week we’ll see how she does when her mouth is all healed. She wasn’t terrible before- she should be great now I hope! After our hot weather Saturday afternoon ride I ponied Khaleesi from Faygo and moved the girls back “home” to their field next door for the spring/summer/fall. It was nice to winter at our friends’ barn- with heated tack room, and nice large barn! But it’s also nice to be home again and the boys will be glad to have the girls back on property.

Girls happily grazing back in their home field.
Girls happily grazing back in their home field.

This week I start getting serious about preparing for our first AERC ride! Assembling camping gear, packing up my new hay bags, checklist for my crew bag, Ed is helping me affix the camping corral to the trailer, and I’m going to keep Faygo hydrated and fed without working her too much. We may take an easy ride on Wednesday- walking mostly, not too long. Countdown is on… less than one week to go!