Gifts [edited]

Monday, June 12, 2017

One thing I love is finding ways everything is a gift- even the things you didn’t think you wanted. If you change perspective and turn them around enough you can see the beauty- but sometimes it takes a little squinting through tears!

I am back from the OD safely and have taken one of the few best showers of my life now able to relax finally and boy it feels good!

Though I tried not to think negatively and ‘curse’ us- I wasn’t convinced I would finish the OD100  sound and healthy the first go at it. The completion rate is usually close to half- and to even enter the 100 usually (hopefully!) means you’re a smart rider with a dependable horse who has some solid experiece, so half those riders pulled out of the race are top endurance competitors. 

Everything has to go right for this to work. And then you still need a little luck to make it through. 

Khaleesi and I began with all the hopes you can carry and within about 3 miles something felt off. I asked Amy to let some riders pass us and watch me trot. 

Something’s not right….

Yep you’d better check. I think you lost a shoe!

I got off and sure enough. Front Left. Gone. Hoof tore up pretty good. Damn rain this spring. This is not a good way to start. 

Now what.. ok. Boot. Vet wrap. We are prepared for everything including this.  
I wrapped the hoof and put on the Scoot boot. And crossed my fingers. We had A. Long. Way. To. Go. 

We start moving again and she’s a little off but better. Frills takes a nice trot pace and K follows without much trouble. In short time she feels better and we’re moving along well. The boot is doing its job. And it’s staying on. 

How will we get through. It’s a long day and I’m now feeling worried. I decide there to ride the trail in front of me on the horse I’m on. Stay present and don’t think of what’s to come or what’s happened. Be. Here. Now.  

We climb the ridge and Khaleesi does her thing- the mountains – she leads Frills at a nice power walk up the first big climb to the ridge. I relax. Amy is terrified of tie up. I’m terrified of lameness. We both try to enjoy the lovely perfect morning with pretty Laurel and nice views. The horses walk the ridge where it’s rocky and grab bites of grass while waking. Eat and chew. Feeling good. 

We came out to the water tanks in good spirits. Electrolyted. Began to head down the mountain- all downhill into Bird Haven. We got this. 

Heading into Bird Haven we caught up with a couple riders at the stream crossing and all the horses have been here before. They were not gong to stop and relax in the stream. They wanted breakfast. And they were not happy to wait while the two horses they just caught got there first. 

We trotted into the hold faster than I would have on my own in order not to choose a fight right there over it (counterproductive) and my heart rate was up at 135 coming to the In-Timer. 

Not what I’d normally do. 

Crew is waiting and ready!

Let’s get her in the shade, tack off and hope we don’t take too long to pulse. 

By the time Ricky came over with the hand-held as Frills had pulsed we’d just gotten her saddle off and started some water. She needs to come down to 64. From 135. Fast. 


Go. She’s at 58

I’m surprised. That was fast. 

We walk slowly to P&R and breathe deep. Cross fingers. 

Me: Good Morning. She should be ok. She was just at 58. 

Pulse taker: Well she’s not now. 

Inner voice: Shoot did we walk too fast- is she looking for Frills?

Pulse taker: She’s at 54 now. 

Very funny.

We walk to the vet. She does fine, trot out with the boot she’s sound. The boot is working. CRI was 48/48.

I’m very happy. Despite losing a shoe early on the first vet check seems like a good sign. 

We go back to eat, drink and get ready for a long afternoon stretch before we see crew again. Pam and Susan are fantastic help! 

Pam is good with K and listens to her when she asks to eat more grass and walk around a little and susan is on top of everything and even makes 3 trips (running) back to the truck for this and that including a second extra boot now for the rest of the day. 

We have a hard loop with a severe climb into Laurel Run with no crew accesss then a tough stretch on to Bucktail. Probably over 7 hours before we catch up with them again. 

I make the decision to stick with the boot. There isn’t a lot of hoof left to nail into and I don’t want to chance loosing that shoe and tearing up a hoof more that already grows slowly. One day’s goal isn’t worth losing all that hoof. Maybe the experience today is going to be in seeing how good these boots really are. 

But I decided to add a pad to make them more protective. We’re heading into some rough territory. It could only help. 

Or not.

We left the check together and within a mile I was feeling something wrong. I looked at the shoes- they were on… the boot however was not. 

Go on ahead. I’m going back for it. I’ll catch up!

Are you sure?

YES!! GO!! 

I turned back and was certain it couldn’t be far. It was at least a half mile. I got off to hand jog her. 

I should have FIRST put the extra boot on- then rode back to get the spare. 

I found the boot and pad. The pad had changed the fit enough to cause it to come off for the first time since I bought them. 
I put the boot on without the pad to see how that would work. It was working from the whole first loop- maybe that was enough. 

We had good gravel road to canter on and possibly catch up to Amy. She could do this in her sleep. We train for this. And it’s early in the day. 

She didn’t. She cantered a little then trotted and little then walked. I compromised on a solid trot. Catching up was not vital. I could ride this ride alone if I had to and it might be better for us. 

Maybe that’s what the day is about. Taking this on alone. That doesn’t worry me. 

Heart rate wasn’t right. As we trotted up the gravel road she hung around 150bpm. Should have been 120 or so. 

That’s an indicator. 

I tried changing diagonals – she wasn’t comfortable. Ok. You’re not doing well with that foot. One last thing I can adjust. I will vetwrap the pad to the hoof before putting the shoe on. That’s how I should have done it in the first place. 

We went on and got off the gravel road into the woods. Let’s see if she comes around and feels more comfortable. 

She’d walk and then trot and then walk and then stumble a little- trip- trot. 

Walk trot walk trip trot walk trot walk trot trip. 

Is this going to sort out? Am I being paranoid? Am I causing this by over-obsessing? 

She paused on trail. 

I thought about it: I know where we are headed and the rocks are only going to get worse and worse. The next two loops are brutal. For a horse going in 100%. 

Do I want to chance it and have to bail 7 miles into this loop making it harder to get out? Do I want to obsess and worry my way through the next 80 miles? Do I want to push my horse to try even though her foot hurts?

Of course not…. 

The drag riders caught me paused in thought on the trail. I told them I was done today and they got me the number (I had some service) for Duane back at Bird Haven and they held the ‘ambulance’ trailer for me.

We walked most of the 2.5 miles back and trotted some of the good footing as I was curious how bad it was. It wasn’t bad- mostly she was pretty sound but occasionally a mis-step. When I switched my diagonal though it was worse and I knew something was there. 

She passed the vet check and the vet at Bird haven gave her a ‘Rider Option’ code because she was considered sound officially. There was again a rare mis-step and we all agreed it was likely a sore spot or minor bruise was the culprit. The time I rode unprotected probably she was ok until she hit a rock then was off and I noticed but the damage was there even if it was slight. 

Let me be clear for those who haven’t been to an endurance event: just because the vet officially cleared her doesn’t mean she didn’t agree that pulling out was the right call. We all believed it would have gotten worse. It just means right then it wasn’t bad enough to call her grade 3 lame. 

Drinking back at camp waking to the trailer. Done for the day!

You don’t take on the Beast of the East with a hoof bruise! Well… at least I don’t. 

I don’t want to get through- I want to do it so my horse is good with the process. I made a promise that I would never (again) put my goals ahead of my horse and what fits into that promise even adjusts over time. This sport asks a lot of a horse. I don’t want to shove it onto her, break her down mentally and physically and then tell her later as she’s recovering in the pasture: see that wasn’t so bad right? We’ll do it again next month.  

I think the vets are amazing. And they do everything they can to ensure the riders and horses can do their best. But I think they stay on the side of allowing the riders to make the call regarding what is best for the horse until it’s severe enough to force a pull.  Depending on your relationship and personality they may give advice- and they’ll always tell you if they think you’re headed for trouble. But I’ve scribed enough to see humans glaze right over as long as they get their rider card back. 

I think it needs to be that way because their job isn’t to be a rider’s conscious – when they pull it isn’t a matter of opinion: at that point the horse cannot continue. 

One thing I took from this ride experience is the confirmation to me that the relationship I’ve created with my horse is way way way too important to force her into a situation that she is hurting or struggling and I insist she continue anyway because it’s not life threatening, career-ending, or it will heal up and not cause long term damage and the vet passed me through.

I want to have a crew that knows me enough to tell me I’m riding my horse too hard or her back hurts or her eyes are getting dull or she’s not eating or drinking enough. It can be hard not to do everything possible to push through when you’re in the middle of it. 

I know I have that crew!

I also want to consider how my crewing stops work from my horse’s perspective and not just my own human needs. I’ve learned that she is a smart mare and if I at least listen to what she is saying I can get more information to help me excel. That’s her job- to be my co-pilot. If I’m a good leader I will want to hear what she has to say. If she wants more grass than beet pulp and that means taking a little walk to graze in vet check that is ok. If she wants to eat everyone else’s food that is not ok. It’s not that she’s in control- but I will try my best to hear her and then determine if I can give her what she’s asking for. 

I believe in the long run over her decade-plus-team career this will build into a horse that doesn’t just put her head down and do her job, but pushes herself to carry me faster, farther and with the great heart of a mare more willingly than otherwise. 

And because she isn’t a Arab bred from the womb to excel in this sport it’s all the more important to use every angle at my disposal to succeed with her. 

That is what this sport means to me. 

And this ride where I made the call to hear her as she told me she wasn’t feeling right to continue into the rough mountains – that is a sacrifice for the goal but a huge gift to her. 

I will always remember last year’s Iron Mountain ride where I didn’t listen because I thought she was not giving her all. She was alone and didn’t want to leave camp… she could move along faster… we train at home we’re ready! But the rocks there hurt her feet and was significant. It was significant mentally, emotionally and physically. 

She leaned that day I would force her into something she couldn’t handle. She learned if she didn’t perform even when in pain I would get emotional (frustrated… oh that embarrassing scene alone in the woods). I caused physical damage to her hooves that I think she is still paying for over time trying to get stronger feet and the impact damage from the x-rays. 

Saturday when I turned her around was very significant. 

She learned that I can be trusted. That I will take care of her. That I will not push her into a situation she can’t thrive and perform. 

Like Buck says:

Always make a winner out of your horse so she can make a winner out of you. 

That is a gift. 

The opportunity to prove myself and my dedication to my horse. You can’t do that when the stakes are low. It’s only a sacrifice when you give something up. And I know she knows. 

She may not have completely understood what it meant to enter the 100 but she knew my energy had been different. She felt it in our tack and warm up ride the evening before. She was a coiled spring ready to perform. She was proud and prancing and happy. She was different. I felt it in every step. Not out of control- just strong. 

Without question she knew this was a significant event. And as I turned her around I told her how proud I was of her and rubbed her neck and said I knew she did her best and I will work on getting her feet stronger to support the rest of her. 

I cried a little too for the disappointment I felt because it was honest. Yet I knew in my heart it was a gift to both of us. This day would be one more invaluable link in our relationship and the years of preparation for the day we do cross the 100 finish line strong and healthy!

This year has taught me valuable life lessons and I am blesssed to be in a place where I believe that it’s not good and bad but truth and love.  Reality is a gift. 

Everything is a gift. 

Here are some more of the positive things that came from pulling out of the race after riding the first 20 miles:

* Because it was early enough, I made it back to camp in time to jump in and crew for Amy!
* I got to see all the vet checks from the road. What they look like, how the set up and parking is like. What other riders and crews are doing and what works. 

* My awesome crew got to experience crewing this 100 with Ricky helping Amy so no pressure to get me through but to help, watch and learn…
* they are already thinking of ways to improve on my gear and packing systems that would make the day more efficient for them (awesome!!) and have said they will help me try again!
* I did all the mental, emotional and physical prep for the ride and will be more efficient next year with better understanding what is coming. 

* A 20 mile trail ride instead of 50-100 miles will mean I get more saddle time this summer as she won’t be on a 3-week recovery break. 

* I have more compassion and empathy for others who try and don’t succeed at something important to them. 

My mentor Lynne said always buy the ride photo. It goes into a photo journal and you can look back at your progress. So I bought my photo from the first loop and wrote this on the back for future reference:

My good friend Sarah upon getting the text that I didn’t make it through sent this wonderful quote:

Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; It strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.

Refined through the fire. 

April 26, 2017

Where to begin?

There’s been a lag in my blogging because I’ve been too busy doing to catch up with writing.
Let me try to sum it up.

Since my last blog post:

  • my mother came to visit.
  • We hosted a two-day private horsemanship type clinic together with friends (horsemanship seems the closest tag… it was about everything from riding to energy work to nutrition to training to equine communication to life lessons… all jam packed into two intense days).
  • My mom spent some time with fabulous Faygo as the plan is to send her to Reno this summer.
  • Then after dropping the clinician and my mom at the airport I came home and packed and left for the No Frills 55 which we rode on Saturday.
  • With a day to unpack and recover I’ve spent two days digging out of that hole from work duties and teaching my violin students.

Now to update my blog as best I can considering how much material I have and how little time and space I have to write this week.

First mom’s visit.

I am so grateful for the time we had together to share horsey-life. We got some beautiful riding in my favorite spots including Hidden Valley and The Big Lonely. 

She and Faygo had fantastic connection right from the start- and there must be horses somewhere in our blood because for starting later in life even than I have- she has great intuition and a great connection to them. I felt they were well matched right away and as the week went on even more strongly so. By the time she left I wished she could put Faygo on the plane with her and take her sooner. When people ask “are you sad for her to go” I can only say:

No! not even a little. Of course I’ll miss her- she’s an amazing horse and my first love… but when you see something so right and the situation so great for her, that is the only thing that really matters. It makes my heart happy to know she’ll be with my mom and Shine.

Second the clinic.

I can’t even begin. Life changing is an understatement so I’ll start by saying that it was a special time with women who are very important in my life and horses that connect us all. 

Dee from Simple Equine Teaching guides the humans to be able to think like a horse does because horses cannot think like a human. Seems easy enough- but my experience is that most people who try to see the world from the horse’s perspective mostly end up thinking “as if the horse thought like a human” and that’s where things go wrong. In order to see from the horse’s perspective first you have to notice how they communicate and enter that space. No matter what it sounds like from the outside- I’ve seen it. I’ve seen things change. Seeing is believing for me.
It’s the kind of clinic that even though looking back the least amount of time was probably spent with me and Khaleesi within the total group, I learned a ton from being part of everyone else’s process.
I don’t just want to know how to connect with my horse- I want to learn how horses think and communicate period- so watching very basic things between my mom and Faygo… and standing at the top of a very large field while Carrington learned to connect to her lead horse in a herd was invaluable for me. I learned much about working with Wild Heart and what that process will continue to look like and how Susan and I compliment each other with her… and had a blast with the time I did spend with Khaleesi.

Spending some time with the girls at the Big Lonely before the clinic.

The funniest must be when I went to collect my horse from the home field on day one- she would be transported to The Big Lonely (site of the clinic) after working with Wild Heart. My fantastic horse that comes to me and puts her head in the rope halter 95% of the time knew Dee was there and put on quite a spectacular show! 

As I stood inside the barn with the thought to collect her while they were wrapping up with Heart I got this welling up in my heart: I’m going to get my horse now… my friend… my sidekick… my second in command…

I kid you not: as I stood up in the barn hardly able to contain my excitement and anticipation to work with my partner I looked out the barn window and watched as she went from standing in the closest corner watching the barn to a full gallop down the fenceline to the farthest point of the field. Doubt if you want to but it was as obvious to me as the fact that the sun will rise tomorrow: she felt my energy and ran with it.

I went out to the field and she came barreling back toward the gate. It had been raining on and off and the field was soggy. She showed off her full acrobatic repertoire. Bucking, rearing, jumping and running with sliding muddy stops. At one point before I stepped inside the field she did just the right amount of twist to send a shower of mud particles cartoon-like in their perfection showering right on top of me.

Brava! Yes… you are fantastic… I’m coming in to get you now…

Yes. She dared me. Come in to get me! WHEEEEEEEEEE!

If she truly wanted to evade she had acres of field to leave me for but instead she played with me and danced showing off her skills and then standing still enough for me to get close, offer a hand then twist and buck and run off again.
K: You need to up your game today! Dee is here… I know it!
Me: Show off. Come in and work with me. I promise it will be fun!
K: I will… but you have to say the secret code first!
Me: Come on… you know I don’t know the secret code.
K: I know… but Dee does! You might figure it out here… I’ll give you clues. 

True enough Dee finally came outside as the game went on and laughed: I love this mare… she is having so much fun with you!

After a couple suggestions revealing her equine code of the day, true to her word K stood still and dipped her head into the halter and we left the field together and into the trailer heading for the Big Lonely as if nothing was different than usual. She wasn’t worked up or hot or distracted- she had her fun and was mine again. 

 As the rain kept coming on and off we rode in the indoor arena there and talked about diagonals and signals of riding that are just a little different than the things I’ve heard around me for years.

I brought up my experimentation with riding in the halter and she thought a moment before suggesting that it’s ok with the right equipment but not ideal… what we need to set our sights on is to ride in a neck rope. After all when doing 50 – 100 miles on the trail, getting everything off her face would be best. 

Not today…. But we’ll get there.

Of course we will. I have no doubt.

The No Frills 55.

Becky Pearman Photography

After dropping my mom and Dee at the airport Friday morning and not being sure my truck was ready at the shop I was completely unsure if I’d be attending my favorite ride this year. I have been learning that all of life is beyond my control and that it is OK. I am learning the strength in flexibility and how to pay more attention to the doors that open around me. If my truck wasn’t running it didn’t matter how ready my horse was- the No Frills wouldn’t happen for us this year.

But my truck did get finished thanks Jay Ford and Casey and team and then I truly did have to make the call: do I go or not go?

I was mentally and emotionally exhausted and hadn’t had much time at home. I had plenty to catch up on. This 55 on the other hand was a true test of green to 100’s current conditioning program and her feet. It was my last chance until June to see if we were on the right track. After a brief discussion with Ed (who was working over the weekend anyway) I decided to go.

I packed in an hour, loaded my horse and hit the road. I didn’t put my usual ton of thought or preparation. I threw some things into a cooler, a bag and a few plastic bins. As long as I had horse and saddle I should be fine. The biggest things I forgot were: sleeping bag, GPS and heart rate monitor. I was able to borrow a blanket from great friends Amy and Ricky and Amy even leant me a HRM but I couldn’t make it work. Didn’t matter. This ride there was no data- and that was for the best.

I woke up at 4:30am in my trailer hammock to pouring rain and figured I’d made the wrong call. I should have stayed home. Too late. I’m here, I drove. I paid. I’m riding.
Thankfully the Muddy Creek Rain Coat Ed got me a couple birthdays ago created a climate bubble. I was never cold and never wet. In fact it ended up being quite a pleasant ride despite the high of 48 and cold rain. 

Misty cold rain held all day- yep. Rocks here too

The weather was ever in Khaleesi’s favor. It kept her cool through a very tough ride, and it softened up some of the hard pack easing some of the concussion of 55 miles.

I went out of camp last knowing the only way we would make it through sound was to let her pick her way through the rocky trail at her pace. I had no way of knowing our average speed thank God because it seemed too slow to finish, but I didn’t care. My horse came first and I would not make the same mistake I made at 2016 Iron Mountain. I would listen to her and allow her to navigate as she was able. If we went overtime so be it. This time I would listen. I would make it up to her. I would be better.

We met up with Roger in the first loop and the two of us never left the last positions for the entire 11 hours we were out on trail. Khaleesi crept through the rocks and trotted whenever she could. We didn’t hurry and we didn’t tarry. By the last vet check we were alone after about 10 minutes into our hold while the volunteers began cleaning up- no one was even close to our last places in line. Didn’t matter- my horse looked amazing.

Final vet check before the finish at mile 43

The final 10 miles to camp we rode alone and the footing was normally hard pack but the relentless 10 hours of rain had softened it up just enough and she trotted and cantered that stretch like we’d just left the barn. 

The road follows a stream; she dragged me in a few times to drink her fill and she would pick at the lush early grasses from time to time but overall she ran home with energy to spare.

We all but cantered excitedly down into the final vetting in camp and once I pulled her tack she pulsed at 60 then had a cardiac recovery of 48 bpm. Fantastic! I’ve never seen her look so good after a ride and her feet held without a sign of lameness.

What a good lesson for me. The No Frills is hands down one of the toughest rides for both the 30 and the 55- thankfully in April we never had the heat & humidity the June OD ride does, and the June ride has more elevation gain to worry about, but this ride has the worst rocks of all three and intense relentless trails.

Looking good back at camp

As Roger reminded me: You close your eyes at night and see rocks after this ride. Grass & rocks, mud & rocks, big rocks and small rocks; embedded trail rocks and loose gullies of rocks. Rocks everywhere you turn.

Rock trail

Something else Roger said that gave me a smile. He said Khaleesi moves so beautifully- like she floats down the trail but you can see her put that hind end motor underneath herself with great power. That’s what I want. Power and ease.

I have a long way to go as a rider to help make her job as easy as possible, but I have come such a long way from my first LD on her with my legs flying around and being tossed into the air feeling like I’d gone through a washing machine for 30 miles. 

Overall this past year has been a challenging one on many levels. Often uncomfortable, but it’s the challenges that up your game and make you better if you let them. It’s the fire that refines. 

With many lessons sloshing around the think tank I will enjoy a moment of positive growth. Here after this 55 I think we both looked and felt the best after a big ride yet! I am refreshed from some time with my amazing mom, and my horse and I  are on the right track and have many more years and miles to tweak and improve. 

Becky Pearman Photography

Time. Truth. Heart.

The road to Blackwater 

Friday, March 3, 2017

All systems are go so we plan to hit the road in the morning. 

My farrier came Wednesday to put the shoe back on- turns out his schedule changed and he showed up while I was at work instead of later in the evening as we’d planned.

This always makes me a little nervous because Khaleesi doesn’t really trust him 😙.  The mare that walks right up to me in the field becomes a running, herding evader when he comes to get her. I can just hear her:

No way- my mom isn’t here so what do you think you’re doing?? Are you sure this is ok… HELP!! I’M BEING HORSE-NAPPED!!! Someone… anyone!! I am NOT going with you!!! STRANGER-DANGER!!

Luckily the farm manager was also there and though he said it wasn’t exactly easy- he was miraculously able to get a halter on her and bring her in. He wins her over in the barn from time to time as he walks by, gives her a rub and asks ‘how you doing you hateful thing you?’

Thankfully the shoe went on without a hitch and the exact text quote I got from my farrier after I asked how it went was:

When she took off running she looked good…


Took a short easy ride Friday with Wild Heart to be sure she stays sound carrying a rider, and so far so good!


​​Now for ride prep.

First I print off my checklist. 

The weather dictates a lot of the plan. 

It will be cold night/morning (low of 27) and warm in the day (high of 50). I plan to do a slight trace clip just of her neck and chest but not too invasive. I will also bring a fleece and sheet to keep her comfortable at night.

Always amazes me how good she stands to be clipped on her neck and chest when sometimes she nips and fidgets with too much brushing and grooming.
I will steal a concept from a blog I recently read (and loved- you can see it here if you’re interested: 20 Mule Team 100). She said when you’re prepping for a ride:

You just can’t think about these things too hard… to be clear, you obsess, pack and re-pack, and continually go over all the details in your head and never stop thinking about it while not really acknowledging that you’re about to do something that half way terrifies you (ok, she was doing her first 100 and I’m heading into our 4th 50 so I’m not exactly terrified but you never know what will happen so it’s always a little of the unknown…) you just do it. I call it winging it while being as overprepared as possible. 

I love that phrase: winging it while as overprepared as possible. That is exactly how I feel each ride. And I try not to visualize getting up in the dark while it’s 27 degrees to make coffee and start getting ready for 50 miles underfoot and 8-10 hours in the saddle. 

Thankfully my friend and gym trainer loaned me a tent heater so at least we’ll be toasty as long as we are inside the box!

And I’ll say a prayer of gratitude that no rain is predicted and the winds should be minimal. Nothing really is as bad as being wet!

I’ve read a few blogs and reports from fellow riders who have begun their seasons and have been taking notes of their experiences. The two biggest ones seem to be: not using a rump rug on a cold morning start and not electolying enough early enough (as cooler temps didn’t seem to call for it). 

Love the lightweight fleece and she looks so good in it!

I will keep her fleece sheet as long as possible since I gave her a trace clip and to keep those joints warm. Finally I’ll use my (still in the package) rump rug for this start. We’ve never really needed it before but this will be the earliest (in the season) ride for us so time to bust it out. 

My plan is to electrolyte early and regularly even if it’s cool. 

Susan Garlinghouse once wrote: the feeding you do Thursday becomes the fuel for the ride Saturday. So… I’ve been fueling up Thursday and Friday with spaced out meals of senior feed, beet pulp and all our antioxidants and minerals as well- making sure not to forget the salt so she’s encouraged to keep hydrated before we load up. 

I’m tossing plenty of hay twice a day and opened up an extra section of baby grass pasture they’ve been blocked out of a few weeks. 

The first event of the season always takes me longer to sort out my gear, but each year it’s a little less mayhem and nerves of forgetting that essential item- whatever it may be. 

I’ve never had a disaster of gear/packing yet, and as I told ed: I’m getting to feel part of the endurance family and they’ve always got your back in case of emergency. 

I am excited this ride to have Iva (a horse crazy teenage violin student who has come up to ride with me on occasion) as my company and crew. I know I can do this on my own but it’s always nice to have help. Bonus, she’s fun and I enjoy spending time with her! It’s great borrowing other people’s kids… 

Iva and me on a ride a few weeks ago

I suppose now I’m just stalling. There are snow flurries out there and it’s gusty. Not the kind of day I enjoy spending hours in the barn packing up, but it’s what we do!

Getting there part 2

Later on Thursday, February 23, 2017

We loaded up at 7:30am and headed down the mountain to the vet. Khaleesi was already improved from 3-legged lame the previous day but she was still noticeably off. 

Morning fog as we came off the mountain

My farrier said he was sorry he couldn’t meet us at the vet and I assured him we’d stay in touch. It was a nice thought but I know how busy he is. 

When we pulled in Kelly said she was glad we were getting together right away instead of waiting until Friday (the original time the office set before she’d received my text video and contacted me personally) – me too. Especially when she saw her come off the trailer:

She’s already 90% better than that video you sent yesterday. 

I thought 90% was a stretch but she said regardless it was a very good sign that she was recovering so quickly. 

We were pretty certain that it was the hoof as there was some heat. I asked if she was picking up digital pulse and she said yes but it’s tough to find.  I always have a hard time when feeling for digital pulse on her and it makes me second guess what’s going on. 

Kelly suggested she’s in such good shape that her heart rate is already slower and makes it harder to pick up. But it was there though somewhat faint. 

I trotted her for them see her head bob and the extent of the left front lameness. She examined what she could with shoe and pad – tapping all the nails and didn’t find any of them particularly sensitive. She tapped on the front of the hoof wall and K didn’t like that so much. Kelly said you could see that front tendon pulse when she knocked the hoof from the front. 

We decided to go ahead and pull the shoe to get more information.

Hoof testers didn’t seem to reveal anything obvious except if anything she’s more sensitive on the inside of the front of the hoof. The tapping was the most obvious and Kelly thought it was possible she hit it on a rock – like stubbing your toe- more likely than a bruise on the sole (which makes sense since she is padded to protect from that). She pared out a small bit of sole to see but nothing was apparent so she stopped. It didn’t appear to be an active abscess. 

Then we trotted her without the shoe and she was still off. 

Next a nerve block to see if we could be completely sure we weren’t missing anything- if we numbed the nerves to the hoof only and she was sound then we’d know we didn’t miss something in a tendon, leg or shoulder. 

Sure enough she was basically sound after the nerve block so at least we could be confident it’s her feet. 

So we are back to major changes in her hoof shape which were very likely a good thing but we’re paying up front so to speak with issues now to hopefully have her set up for more success in her joints, bones and tendons during her career. Her feet, angles, and shoes look great now but she needs time to grow hoof underneath her. 

Here is where it’s nice to have a vet who also endurance rides. She went through a similar process with one of her endurance horses and sees a very similar case with K. She said a few months of hoof growth and proper trim made all the difference but it does take some time.

Meanwhile I’ve ordered a supplement the hoof folks recommended (California Trace) that has a good combination and ratio of minerals to help support that hoof growth. It may not produce a miracle but it can’t hurt. We are considering putting her on a short term medication that is often used in laminitic horses to encourage faster hoof growth and healing to see if it speeds the process. 

We are also talking with my farrier (had a call with him when we wrapped up the visit) about easy shoe products that are basically rubber or rubber with metal horseshoes that would give her better concussion protection and also allow me to continue filing back her toes in between shoe intervals to keep the hoof growth in the right direction (think regular pruning of a tree). 

Kelly is about to start experimenting with these in her performance horses so hopes to get ahead of the learning curve for us. 

But in the immediate present she said not to give up on the March ride yet. 

Khaleesi is more than fit for this ride. You shouldn’t ride her in the next 10 days anyway- you’ve created an athlete now leave her alone – she will excel on more rest than work right now. 

The ride is soft footing and if she bounces back in the next 5 days she should do well if you aren’t trying to ride in rocks and hard pack. 

Curious what all that stuff is for…

We have wet poultice pads on her foot wrapped in bandage and then in her hoof boot in the field. This should help soften the hoof and draw out anything that might be starting (abscess). She is on butte for a few days to help with inflammation as well as omeprezol (to protect her stomach from the butte). I am also icing once a day. We can’t be certain an abscess won’t brew in there but these things should help offset that possibility. 

Double ice bag

Also I’ll adjust my riding/training for a while. She can walk all she wants on tough surfaces without having to trot and we’ll look for easy footing to work on speed. This will help keep her sound while her feet are growing and changing. 

I am also going to send some pasture samples to our extension agent for testing. It’s a long shot but a friend sent me a study regarding horses being sensitive to a mold endophyte in fescue. It’s called fescue foot in cattle and only has been considered an issue in pregnant mares when it comes to horses but some studies are showing that mild lameness can be found in some horses as well. It doesn’t affect all- and there’s another horse on the farm that struggled from a mysterious lameness after coming up there about 2 weeks this fall. They tried various things for a month or two and eventually ‘gave up’ on the horse as they couldn’t get him 100%’sound and took him to another pasture to hang out a few miles away. He got better within about two weeks of leaving. — I know it seems unlikely but at this point I’m curious about anything (and so is Kelly). If we have the endophyte and it’s making it harder for her to stay sound it’s at least something to consider in the equation. 

Another far flung idea that was suggested to me is struggling from low grade sub-clinical laminitis from her years as a feral horse on all the grass one could ask for and only as much exercise as she felt like. The X-rays do not show any separation in the laminae at all and we feel that is least likely at this point. 

I asked it it was ok to put her back in the field. She is not used to or a fan of being stalled though she willingly stayed in last night when she was so bad. Kelly said as long as her field isn’t too rocky she should be ok- I’d like her not to be cantering around like a wild thing especially on rocks and hard ground. 

Nope, it’s grass. 

That should be fine. 

Well. She felt so good that when I let her out into the field she showed me just what she thought of being on pasture rest. And I winced as I heard Kelly say as long as she’s not running around.  

I got a chance right away to redo the bandage. I was worried my hoof boot was too tight with all the layers so I left the top strap off. 

Mistake. After re-bandaging I closed both straps. And she stuck with walking around as well so hopefully tomorrow the boot and poultice is still on. 

So again we hit the field rest button and see how she does when we pull her off the butte in 5 days. 

I told Kelly that today I’d hoped to do our last long ride and leave 10 days rest. She expressed once again that Khaleesi can easily take 2 weeks off before a 50 and didn’t need one more long ride today. 

She’s totally fit for this. 

I have written here that I’m listening to the pleas for rest… I am trying to get that… but TWO WEEKS???? It just seems so much…

I said that I had this other voice that was telling me that I’m going to be asking more of my horse than I’ve prepared her for… and that is unfair and can injure her. That’s my struggle to get past. 

She said she understood. She shared with me her first 100 and how she was convinced that she would be crawling into the finish and dragging her horse behind her. There’s no way they had ‘done enough’ – she’d been in vet school at the time and just didn’t have the ability to do what she thought she should. But in the end she was still holding her horse back at the finish line and he had a ton left over. Because he was ready with a good fitness base- and rested. 

Her opinion of field rest

I am reminded that I can be so hard headed the universe is still screaming at me to understand things. In this case as I drove home I heard it screaming you don’t need to do one more ride. She needs to rest. Jeez, I’m sorry we have to keep doing this to you but you aren’t listening. 

As many have reminded me these animals are great at keeping us humble. A lesson I learn over and over again after I feel I’ve worked and studied and tried my best so we should be ‘golden’. But as my friend Kate reminded me on Saturday- it’s the luck that no one really talks about. Some are lucky and some are not. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do and how hard you work and what amazing care you give. Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don’t. 

So we’ll keep trying to do our best- and we’ll take some luck if we get it. And when we have a great ride- we’ll also be thankful that along with preparation and training and hard work- we also might get lucky. 

Just getting there

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Cue the suspense music…

After the wonderful glowing report that we were all back on track and looking forward to a fabulous season (barring any unforeseen circumstances) the unforeseen circumstances have come early!

Khaleesi is lame. Bad lame. Like hoping it’s an abscess lame. It does look like it’s in the foot, and there’s some heat in the foot as well. 

I got in touch with Kelly and Brandon immediately and sent video to Kelly- we have an appointment first thing this morning to have her checked out. 

To me it seems most likely this is a product of the same root cause of her occasional lameness. Field rest has always cleared it up in the past but the only way to get a hold of it is for someone to examine her while it’s happening. 

Of course it could also be completely unrelated… but I doubt it. 

It is disheartening to go from great to broken down in just days- but it is heartening to have a team of folks who want to see you succeed: a vet so dedicated she’ll see you on her day off and a farrier who stays in touch and consults with the vet- and says he’ll do whatever we need after the visit as soon as he can. 

In part I hate to even write this post- I feel discouraged and a bit of a failure. I can’t seem to keep this horse sound- it must be something I’m doing wrong. 

But I really am determined to be honest and share the whole story for the ugly hard parts and the glorious success (if we ever get to that!!)

Stay tuned. The saga continues. 

I keep hearing reminders that half the reason they call it endurance riding is how hard it can be just to get to the starting line.