Friday, May 31, 2013

best laid plans

Everything seemed OK, but I wanted a second opinion, especially since Major's leg was a bit lumpy. The vet quickly looked over Major's leg. He said the wounds are now just superficial, and that the "lumps" around the scars are from the periosteum (a membrane that covers the bone) being impacted. The periosteum really reacts to being whacked, and this is what is does sometimes, grows lumps. He was actually surprised both legs didn't have lumps! I am putting on the expensive cream (Surpass) from Major's splint injury last year, but we're good to go. Yeah!

So we headed out, planning on a good trotting ride. The trails are brown. Or if you're an optimist, they are golden. The only green is the evil poison oak and the evergreen oaks, who thrive in this dry environment. A few gray pines too.

bobcat ahead,  sliding into the brush

Starting out on a nice, quick trotting ride. Headed up the hill and saw a shadow cross the trail. And the shadow paused and looked back. Stopping Major I tried to take a photo of the lovely bobcat as he quietly slipped into the bushes, disturbed by our presence. We kept going, quickly moving on, hoping we didn't disturb his hunting.


My plan was to move quickly, picking up the Pioneer Trail to Rattlesnake Bar. But I got distracted (squirrel!), and took a turn here and there, picked our way over rocks, paused for a view, cantered down the trail to the lake. Overlooking the lake, you can barely make out where our canal trail existed all winter. But small parts are still accessible.

from the upper trail, underwater canal trail below
the water creeping up one of the still open trail sections

Plans forgotten I took the tight, upper trail (the dreaded Rock Trail) and then the first lake access. The trail skirted the water, Major boldly waded right into the lake up to his belly before I stopped him. And then we just stood there, contemplating the view. When I finally cued Major to turn for home he lowered his head and splashed around. We stood another minute, was he going to drink? Cued again…more splashing. OK, fool me twice. I tried again…more splashing. Major thought he had my number, he would just keep playing in the lake. Every time I picked up a rein or gave him leg, he would begin to play. It was pretty hilarious. Guess Major would rather stand in the lake then head on down the trail.

staring into the distance, goofing off

But we headed back, Major decided he now really wanted to go home, at mach 10! I had my hands full asking for better behavior, stopping and backing, finally no silliness, just speed. But we quietly walked back across the staging area where I usually got off. Major paused. Nope, I kept riding, all the way back home, even made him trot the final stretch. Major was not amused. I was (insert evil Mr. Burns "excellent").

golden, and full of burrs and foxtails too

Back home the water monster attacked him. The same horse that not even half an hour before didn't want to leave the lake absolutely hates to get wet with the hose and dances around while getting his after ride bath. But stands quietly for carrot, and trots off twisty head to roll in the dirtiest part of his pasture.

"Best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray." And turn into great rides.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

take it easy

nice hair Major

Nothing with horses is easy. Fun, frustrating, scary, exciting. But not easy.

Major's leg has been healing fine, just a little edema, sigh of relief. Then I got a call last week that he cast himself in his pasture, his pretty good size grassy pasture he has lived in for years. He chose to get stuck in the ONE place he could get stuck. They got him up no problem. I am glad he is an easy-going guy who didn't fight humans trying to help. I was ready to jump in my car and drive over, but the barn owner walked him around, told me Major was drinking and pooping, said he was doing well. For all our small disagreements in the horse world I have had with the BO over the years, I really appreciate her level of horse care in this situation. When I checked him later in the day, he was a tiny bit stiff, but the next day absolutely fine. Then I (and helpful SO) spent a hot couple of hours reinforcing the area so he can't do it again (yeah, right, we can hope, break out the bubble wrap!) while said obnoxious horse trotted, head-flinging around the arena, mad that we wouldn't let him in his pasture to "help" with power tools laying about.

I did manage to fit in some rides. Remember those beautiful grassy scenes from months ago? And people were so envious. No more. All dry. Green is gone until at least October. Feast your eyes on the lovely brown hillsides, ripe for fire danger, rattlesnakes and thistles.

trails of little weedy foxtails to get stuck in everything

the only green to see are the oaks and scrub bushes

At least the lake is blue. In our nice overlook spot, where if you look over the rock, idiots have pushed a burned-out car and broken glass is all over. We just take in the scenery and try to ignore it.

perspective: small ears, lake

perspective: more horse, lake, graffiti

Another ride on almost empty trails (really, where was everyone this weekend?) was fun as we stood in the lake, getting boots wet, working on testing fit (A+ for Major, C for his friend Friday, need to do some adjusting.) Major and I had some discussions on speed, where the word "easy" is supposed to mean slow down. Not ignore your rider.

see, left is home, go that way, There is nothing to eat here.

again, are you dense? LEFT is home!

After this ride Major's leg had no edema, no heat, totally sound. And two big lumps (scar tissue?) on his right hind (the one he injured second, not the big gash, the smaller cuts, arrghh!). They don't seem to bother him at all, but this week I'll have the vet come out, because it is weird.

Major has a pretty good life, hanging out in pasture munching on grass, having me at his beck and call. A few challenging rides here and there. Scaring me with calls from the barn owner. Frustrating me with injuries and bad behavior. And I wouldn't change it, I love my horse. But it's not easy.

this illegal grazing area is delicious, a rare bay appaloosa arab actually not melting in the sprinkler

perspective: one day at a time

Friday, May 17, 2013


Not to worry, this SOS is not the distress signal, but our local SOS, Sweep Riders of the Sierra's. This local organization provides the sweep riders and support teams for both the Western States Endurance Run and the Western States Trail Ride (Tevis). I've gone to a couple meetings and it looked like a good and fun thing to do. But first you have to qualify.

I normally would have given Major a week off after Cache Creek. But the last SOS qualifying ride was this week, (the first qualifying ride was when I had a wedding to attend, of course, plans happen like that).

My friend C picked me up and we went over to Cool. Which is not a cool drive. It is down down down the canyon, up up up the other side, all with small lanes and tight turns and impatient motorists. I was glad not to drive!

where are we? what are we doing? let's go, let's go!

Once there, Major was a tiny bit impatient, thinking maybe this was another endurance ride! He quickly settled down when he realized we weren't really going anywhere.

oh, not going anywhere yet? wake me when something happens.

The ride consisted of a large group of people who needed to qualify for the first time, or to requalify their horses (you have to requalify if you do not participate for a year). There were spotters among the riders who would be watching and evaluating the horse and rider teams. We did specific things on the trial, like ponying, tailing, passing and being passed at speed, backing up hills, behaving in crowds, etc. Things that lots of endurance horses are already good at!

learning about the next obstacle

Every year this group helps out many runners, riders and horse who are injured or exhausted, who have had an accident or who just can't go on any more. They ride different sections of he Western State trail, day and night, all the sections get covered as the runners and riders go through. Each section is different in length, and you're assigned a section based on the capabilities of you and your horse. I said I'd ride anywhere, hope that works out!

just follow the butt, I can do that…

We passed the qualifying! I was pretty proud of Major who was a fire-breathing 50-mile dragon three days before, and a placid obedient trail horse for this. He could tell the situation did not warrant any extra energy. Soon we will know our team and section, so we can pre-ride and figure out logistics, moving so many trailers, people and horses is quite a feat in and of itself.

put me in this thing, I'm ready to go home now…

NOW Major will get some well deserved time off. Though he was already dragging me around walking down the road, snatching grass. He gets to rest. I get to clean some really dirty tack. And work. Oh, the hard life of a pampered horse…

do not EVEN think about taking this tasty weed from me!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Cache Creek reflections

pulling-my-arms-out trot: Blll Gore Photography
Cache Creek reflections

After a few days reflection, I still feel pretty good about the ride. I love posts about the "aftermath" good or bad, of a ride. People do some awesome analysis of everything from ride to recovery. But I'm not much of an analyzer. We finished, we did well. I wish his respirations would have come down a bit quicker. So I may do a bit more short speed work in the next month, though that is hard to do on our trails. All my tack fit fine, though I was tired of being in the saddle after 50 miles. My feet were tired from the downhill hiking and I really need better shoes (I was wearing old trail runners).

I drank enough water and electrolyte beverages, but ate almost nothing. This is not a good plan. A banana and yogurt is not enough. I had all the yummy things I thought I could eat, it just wasn't happening. Must work on stress levels which cause me not to eat.

In the professional photos I'm leaning way too forward, this is in the first 10 miles of just trying to keep my horse under control. If I continue to do this I get a sore back. Since I didn't have a sore back, I guess I righted my position when we weren't having a pulling contest any longer.

pulling-my-arms-out canter: Bill Gore Photography

My excellent SO/crew really likes taking photos. And I really hate having my photo taken. But it did document quite well what I was feeling throughout the ride, and that Major looked good the whole time.

apprehensive smile at the start

coming into the second/lunch vet check
leaving second vet check, Major looking determined
leaving third vet check
at the finish, I think I am more done than Major

Other things: I love the big brim on my helmet. It looks goofy. But it kept me so much cooler. My chaps are hot. They are Ariat Terrains. But I think all chaps are hot after 50 miles, I cannot ride without them. I still love my grippy reins that I made. I love my crazy orange shirt, easy to know I'm coming! I love my horse, even after all the stress.

Endurance sure inspires a lot of love.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Cache Creek 2013

We did it! It was super hot and hilly and tough, but we made it through!

the masked bandit of Cache Creek
Friday evening I had my doubts. After vetting (no comments on the cuts on his legs, just superficial now) I took Major on a short practice ride, just to make sure all our gear was fine, etc. He was a raving lunatic, lost two boots galloping up the hill after the creek, was madly spinning coming home. I just about threw in the towel. It made me so upset I was freaking out about Saturday morning, couldn't eat, a mess (more on all that later).

Major looks awkward, but best crew/SO braids making Major pretty

But I'd come this far and if I had to walk the first 10 miles with a spinning horse I was going to at least get to the first vet check, dammit! Sometimes getting mad is what I have to do to get through the upset part.

So Saturday morning we crossed the start line about 10 minutes after the first riders, and yes, Major lost his mind for the next 15 miles. I had decided to start barefoot just attaching my boots to the saddle (after great advice from Mel) because in the first couple miles there is a muddy bog area, a creek, and a couple big hills, all perfect places to lose boots. And I counted 6 easy boots on the trail (others counted 10!)

So we powered along like a locomotive, he'd see the next horse and ratchet it up even higher. The only thing I could do was steer, no cantering allowed, and keep him off of the butt of the horse in front. It was exhausting. That first section (red) is a total blur, but I did get off and walk the big hill into the first vet hold.

We were pulsed down already, but high on respirations. The head vet had set both parameters at 60, concerned about the heat index (with a high temperature of 95 and high humidity we were going to be riding in the danger zone). But within 5 minutes we met both criteria, and vetted through with all As but a B on hydration. I considered putting on boots, but Major was doing great, if the footing got iffy I'd put them on, but I'd wait for the next vet check.

He was still a little crazy as we headed out for the second leg (white). If we were with a  small group, staying in the back, it was great to just move along, But eventually we didn't fit the pace of that group, and I'd move him up, and Major would proceed to scan the horizon for the next group and power towards them, trying to catch every group. This is only my third 50, and I definitely prefer single-track type trails without long sight lines, most of this ride was fire-road sized with views for miles.

lovely ponds, but it was so hot!

There was water everywhere! At the top of every hill there would be a whole collection of troughs. Freshly filled with sparkling water. It was great, and Major drank well all day. No sponging out of the troughs, but scooping was fine, so Major got very wet all day. There were many ponds you could go in as well, but we only waded into one when we were with a like-minded rider, and got to watch the bullfrogs scatter.

We came down another big hill into the 25 mile/lunch vet check. My awesome SO/crew was there, taking some photos, and we untacked the horse and started cooling him off. Again, pulse was down, not quite for respirations. But he came down quickly enough, and vetted through all As, B on gut sounds. The hold was up the top of a short hill, but it seemed long to hike it! Once at the top there was mash of some sort, Major thought it was delicious and ate 2 big containers of wet mash. Then alfalfa. (probably an A on gut sounds now!) I ate a banana and some chocolate milk. I was NOT doing well in the eating department, though I was drinking enough water. The hold went more quickly then I thought (I was hanging with Mel and Farley) and I left about 10 minutes after my out time. The extra rest was nice though.

truly a ridge ride, great views

This section (blue) was the one with the big hill. But we had quite a few miles before we got to it, Major was doing just fine, still charging along trying to catch horses ahead. But I could actually take a few photos, and rode along with Mel for a bit. Then came Berkeley Hill. It didn't look fun, but neither did it look that bad. I'd been scared by stories of people walking up and throwing up, resting along the side. Major just kept power walking, up and up. The trail leveled out, but you could see riders up ahead of us climbing again, so we just kept walking. And got to the top, thinking it wasn't so bad! Good to have enough horse left to think that!
Coming up Berkeley Hill (Not me, Mel and Farley!)

A few more miles brought us to the troughs before the third vet check, and we walked in down the hill. Again, pulse was down, respiration took us an extra 10 minutes of cooling. Again, lots of water was so great! Two friends were here, and both their horses were pulled, one for lameness and one for cramping, I was getting worried! SO was able to come to this stop too, and was such awesome help with refilling my water, untacking, helping scoop, etc. Then we went to the vet. Great score (I think mostly As, I was a bit tired at this point and can't remember). The vet noted that the check was on sharp gravel, and Major didn't like it, but wasn't lame. The vet thought he'd be fine the rest of the trail. Should I put on boots? The dilemma. Major was great on trail, no ouchiness at all. He tells me pretty quickly if his feet are sore, by walking on the sides of the trail. I had no signs, so I continued.

small section of single track

We left the third check and onto purple, the road home! The long road home. This trail did a big almost loop into a really lovely open field area, just a beaten trail through grass. That just kept going and going. I'd ride along with a few people, swap places, drop back, leapfrog again. I was trying to keep a more even pace, but Major did not agree much of the time. When he finally stopped chasing other horse (about 42 miles in) I knew he was a bit tired. Then came a long downhill into the valley. We were by ourselves. And Major was not happy to being led down the trail, he really hates it (we need to work on that). Walk 50 feet, stop, pull on my horse, walk, stop, repeat. I was tired too, I knew we were so close. Are we there yet?

lone rider ahead, Major still trying to catch up

almost done, field of almost dry yellow lupine

At the bottom of the hill a couple people caught up, and Major got a second (third? fourth?) wind. Or maybe he could sense camp was ahead. He tried charging ahead, I got him to walk, but it was a fight. I let another rider pass, and now Major really wanted to catch up! I did let him slower trot to catch up, and we came to the finish about 5pm, a long day!

foreground ears, middle creek, back ridecamp!

As I walked in there was my SO taking more photos, and my family! My Mom, Dad and Sister had all come over to see what all the fuss was about. So they got a sweaty hug, saw the dirty horse, and got to watch for the next half hour as we untacked and cooled Major down, got him a mash ready, and went to the vet. We did the trot out, vet looked him over, proclaimed all As, but just a bit tired and to keep cooling him to get his respirations down even more (criteria for the finish was 68, we were at 60 for both within the 1/2 hour criteria).

I walked Major a couple times, and while tired, he looked pretty great. Pulse and respiration were down, he just just standing quietly resting. He ate about 4 mashes, I tried to make some fancy with yummy stuff, but he wanted his plain beet pulp and grass hay pellets. We stopped by the awards ceremony, where they had already read off my name as 31st (I think?). There were 88 starters and 71 finishers. The first two people into the finish didn't meet criteria. I was glad for the tougher criteria, this was a ride where a horse could get into a lot of trouble.

I went to bed (early!) and didn't plan on walking him in the night, though Major had plans of his own. A loose horse came over and spooked him (all we can think of) and I felt the trailer shake the truck. And woke up to no horse on my high tie! This is why I always sleep in pants! I was out the door in about 5 seconds, and SO was out the other side. SO found Major about 50 feet away, just standing there with his long lead rope, clip and broken velcro strap. I retied him (hard-tied to the trailer this time) and SO tried to catch the other horse, to no avail. It ran off down to the other end of camp, we saw other lights go on, about all we could do right then. (Never did figure out what happened, he isn't a reactive horse, but gets scared with other horses in his space, being low-man in the herd dynamics.)

Of course, then I couldn't sleep, more excitement than I needed! But Major just stood around and chewed hay all night, making lovely poop piles and was happily tied to the trailer in the morning. He had no edema, even after standing around during (most) of the night, legs cold and tight, eating, drinking. We packed camp and headed home that morning, everyone a bit more rested. Two hours later we were home, Major trotted into his pasture and took a big drink of his "own" water.

back home being obnoxious
I checked on him later, walked him around. He is sound and happy (after 50 barefoot miles, awesome!), didn't seem to lose any weight, and wouldn't stand still for a photo (dragging me over to the grass). I am super proud of him. Even at the end he was strong and pulling! Me, not so proud, I need to take care of myself better and try not to let nerves get to me.

Our final stats (GPX file here if interested) say there was 7,915 feet of climbing. Which probably wouldn't have been so bad if it wasn't 95 degrees in early May, when none of us are used to it yet! Major was really strong all day, the only thing I'd love to improve would be the insanity in the beginning. I didn't like him very much as he was tearing my arms off, but I really love my pony. He was brave and strong and did everything I asked.

What a horse.

shamelessly stolen from Charlotte's Web

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Wounds seem healed. Totally sound. Still a tiny bit of edema. As Major's owner I feel comfortable riding. I will explain all to the vets, if they do not agree I will of course believe their well-trained opinion, and it will have just been a long trailer ride. Luckily it is not too far, trailer is packed, we'll head out in the morning.

Wish us luck!

Major says "What? I have to do more than just eat?"

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

getting better

Say it with me in a silly voice: "Not dead yet. Getting better." "It's just a flesh wound." *

Still up in the air. The ride is Saturday. I would need to leave Friday morning.

Major is sound sound sound. Trots fine, frisky, no heat at all (ever since the beginning). Wound is pretty well closed up and hard. Still a bit of swelling, which went almost 100% down with hosing and walking. I worry, then remind myself he always swells, for anything, it is what he has always done. Still I worry.

Am I seriously contemplating deciding on Thursday?
The leg will have to be 100% no swelling. 

Do I hate last minute things?

This ought to be fun.

Riding a carousel horse would be much easier. I saw these last weekend in Tilden Park in Berkeley. Lovely restored carousel. No leg injuries.They do look like they need some turnout time, a bit amped up.

*If you don't get the references, I am very sorry for you. You must watch all of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, many many times in repentance. Bring out your Dead: "I'm not dead, I'm not dead! I'm getting better! I don't want to go on the cart. I feel fine, I think I'll go for a walk. I feel happy! I feel happy! You can also reference the The Black Knight: "It's just a flesh wound!" "You're a loony..."

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

honestly? now?

What am I doing a week and a half before my first 50 of the season? A last training ride?

Nope. Cold hosing Major's swollen leg.

He has lived in the same pasture for years, no issues. Till I came early yesterday for a trim and ride, and discovered the 8 inch long gash running down his cannon bone onto the fetlock still oozing blood.

He didn't seem to notice or care as I cleaned it up, put some Well Horse on it (love that stuff) and walked him about. No lameness. No heat. No swelling. Yet.

Today the leg is a bit swollen, but no heat or tenderness. So no final rides for me this week, just healing thoughts.

In the grand scheme if things, this seems very small (seems that way right now). A fellow blogger Liz had a nasty accident at a ride last week, horses can and do everything to maim themselves.

But for now Major looks like he will heal in time, and I have to think that an extra ride or two this week would not give us that much more conditioning for the ride next week.

To be on the safe side we just got a shipment at work that included miles of bubble wrap packaging. Come over here Major...