Cayuse Canter

I wasn’t planning on going to Cayuse Canter Endurance Ride, since I have been sick with some nasty respiratory virus, and my bank account has been suffering from it’s own flu (due to the necessity for an extra couple of loads of hay this month to get us through until the grass gets going.) But Anastasija has been bubbling over with excitement and ambition to compete with her horse, so she campaigned all week until I agreed to go.

Diego managed to find something really disgusting to lie down in on Saturday morning before we left. He looked awful, stained with green, brown, and yellow, legs and belly encrusted in mud and manure, and he smelled even worse. It was too cold for a bath, so I just held my nose and loaded him up.

Ares was clean of course, because Ana is much wiser than I am. She put a rainsheet on him the night before and left him in the (less muddy) back paddock overnight. Even then, Ares rainsheet looked a bit disgraceful. He definitely tried to get himself as filthy as Diego.

Ares and Anastasija ready to start

Ares and Anastasija ready to start

Ana was entered in the 12 mile Set Speed ride on Saturday. I was in the 12 on Saturday and the 25 on Sunday. The trails were modified a little bit though, and they turned out to be 14 and 27 miles. And the 50 became a 55. There were lots of entries in both of the Set Speed rides, but not too many in the 55. It’s been such a difficult spring for conditioning that many of the horses are not as fit as usual.



I had to spend a lot of time scrubbing the mud off Diego. Rubber currycomb, shedding blade, wet towel, sponge, bucket of water. It still only got the surface muck off. I had to really scrub at his hocks, and at one point, with the rubber curry I didn’t realize I was scrubbing a big scab and ripped it off. Quite a bit of blood oozed out, and he was not too happy, poor guy.

At the initial vetting, Ares got all A’s and really behaved himself well. He’s much less anxious that he has been at previous rides, and so is Ana. Diego was also good, but when he trotted out, the vet noticed he was dogtracking and had one hip a bit higher. That’s something Diego does do, as he’s a fairly crooked horse. But it’s not something the vets usually comment on. Then I remembered the scab that I’d ripped off, and the vet checked that. He figured it was tender enough that probably it was affecting him a little bit. Diego was not lame, and the vet thought he was fine, so we were allowed to start.

I’ve been a little bit frustrated with the treeless saddle I’ve been riding Diego in. I have a nice Christ sheepskin pad that I use with it. Last fall I put some really thick inserts into it, which created a very distinct spine channel. That was great for him, and it solved all of his sore back problems. But unfortunately, it’s not so good for me. The padding is so thick that it’s made the saddle quite unstable. A few weeks ago, in a fit of frustration after falling off him at a walk when he spooked at a rock, I pulled the inserts out of the pad. I was immediately much more comfortable and secure. I knew that would not be sufficient for longer rides, but it worked fine for short rides around the farm, which is all I’ve really been doing. I was planning on putting more moderate inserts into the pad, and tossed them in the trailer to take with me. But of course, somehow I ended up with a mismatched set and the really thick ones that I now despise. I opted to protect myself instead of Diego’s back and left the inserts out of the pad.

Andrea and Skye

Andrea and Skye

Andrea and her lovely big Belgian/QH mare Skye went out with Ana and I. There were some politics to work out initially, since Ares is rather awful about strange horses. It actually occurred to him that attacking her might be a good plan. Anastasija made short work of that idea though, and he settled down. I put Diego in the middle, and Ares went out in front. He’s a very brave little horse on trail. Surprising, since he’s so neurotic about most things. But he trucks along at a good clip. I only saw one spook all day, and that was just a half stop and he immediately carried on forward. He showed off his lovely canter going around an open field and Andrea commented on how nice it looked. He loves to canter.
Ares and Anastasija

Ares and Anastasija

Skye went out in front periodically and we’d send Ares to the back to prevent any rudeness from him. He’s not so happy following though. He definitely prefers to be in front. Skye likes being in front too, but she was getting a bit excited that first day (she hasn’t been to a ride for quite a while) so she had to go to the back of the line whenever she starting charging forward (big strong girl… she’d make an amazing jousting horse!)

Skye wanted to go... fast!

Skye wanted to go… fast!

Diego was pretty happy to be in the middle. He figures that lions will pick off Ares and Skye and that will give him time to scamper off with his life 🙂 He does actually go in front sometimes, and once he settles into it, he’s fine. He seems to prefer to lead when we are crossing open fields. On single track trail he’s happier to have a leader in front of him.

Ares and Anastasija

Ares and Anastasija

The trails were just beautiful. The trilliums were out, as well as a few other wildflowers. The footing at Cayuse is mostly pretty nice. Lots of sandy loam. Very little roadwork (really just a short section of gravel road to access the forest from the ride site). It’s all rolling hills with the occasional gorgeous view.
One of the views along the Cayuse Canter trails

One of the views along the Cayuse Canter trails

Alison and Dianne  on trail

Alison and Dianne on trail

Alison and Dianne crossing the railway bridge

Alison and Dianne crossing the railway bridge

View of the trail from the railway bridge. Jolanda Slik and her Saddlebred, Ace's Night Hawk are just heading to the water trough.

View of the trail from the railway bridge. Jolanda Slik and her Saddlebred, Ace’s Night Hawk are just heading to the water trough.

At the mid-check, Diego was no longer tracking oddly behind, and the vet figured he was fine. He felt good all through that first loop (it was only 7 miles of course). He walked in at parameter, so despite my hopes of getting him a bit cleaner after sponging him off to cool him, I could only take a damp sponge and wipe off the worst of the rivers of sweaty muck dripping down his sides and legs. The wind was cold, so he’d have been a shivering mess if I’d really used any water on him.

We went out on our second loop after a 45 minute hold. Ares was still trucking along with tons of energy. The cold weather really helped him to stay cool. He led for most of the second loop as well. I am really impressed at how steady he’s become. Skye was more settled on the second loop as well. She was able to lead a bit more without charging off like a racehorse. She’s a lovely mare, and has an absolutely amazing trot. You would not look at her and expect to see that kind of speed.

Andrea and Skye lead the way into the vet check

Andrea and Skye lead the way into the vet check

Partway through that loop, I start to feel suspicious about Diego. I changed diagonals and he’d immediately flip into a canter. I tested it about three times. Yup. Sore back. The insert decision was coming back to haunt me. I did my best to stay off his back for the mile or two we had left. But he was starting to feel wrong. We walked into the finish.

When I pulled the saddle off, I could see ruffled hair right in the middle of his back, and swelling over the spine. That’s a spot that will always swell on him if there’s the least bit of pressure there. It goes away within a half hour or so. But it’s a big warning sign.

Do you have a cookie? Because I like cookies...

Do you have a cookie in your pocket Andrea? Because I like cookies…

His heart rate was already at 48 when we came in. So he had no issue meeting parameter. When I took him to his 30 minute vet check, he had to wait for a couple of minutes in line, and was half asleep. His final pulse was 39. That’s the best he’s ever had. So that was great. But when he trotted out, the wonky dogtracking was back. He still wasn’t lame. Just not travelling straight. I told the vet that I was pretty sure his back was sore, and sure enough, he was sensitive when the vet checked it. We decided that he should not go out on Sunday, although he did pass the check.

Ares passed the vetting just fine. His final pulse was 43, which is far lower than he managed at his first two rides. Anastasija was thrilled with that. Skye had a final pulse of 40, and also passed with flying colours.

At the awards Saturday night, Ares got a Grade 2, and Diego and Skye got Grade 1 (range is 1-best to 5-lowest). Anastasija was beaming. So was Andrea 🙂 The two of them decided to go out together on Sunday to do the 14 mile mileage ride.

Ares and Anastasija

Ares and Anastasija

I checked Diego’s back before bed, and it was completely back to normal. No swelling, no flinching. Nothing. So no permanent damage done. He was the same the next morning too. He was a little worked up when Ares went out on trail. But he did settle down eventually. And I took advantage of all that snortiness to get some nice photos of him.

Once he settled down I took him over to the vet check, and had the vet look at him again. They were in a lull between loops, so I got two vets for the price of one. His back was perfect, but he actually looked a bit lame, not just wonky when he trotted out. On examination, it looked like his hock was starting to get just a touch of filling around the cut. The second vet was pretty sure it was actually the cut bothering him the most, and not his back. Which made sense. He suggested that I sweat it.

Ares was pulled at the mid check on Sunday. Bad luck. He had bruised his frog on a rock. It wasn’t bad, but Ana could feel it out on trail every now and then and knew he wasn’t quite right. Skye and Andrea carried on and finished the last loop alone. She said that by then Skye was really good. They just had a bit of a moment when some faster riders went by and Skye was SURE she could catch them. So there was some sideways cantering. Given the size and power of that mare, I imagine it’s quite something to be on top of her when she’s doing that!

This morning, I could still see a bit of swelling in Diego’s hock. So currently he’s in a stall with it all wrapped up in furacin sweat, plastic wrap, and a bandage. It doesn’t look too bad so far. But he is flinchy enough about it that I do think that was the cause of the wonky movement, and not the sore back (since that was better within a couple of hours).

I took a ton of pictures, both on trail and in camp. So here’s a gallery with a whole lot more (you can click on any of the thumbnails to see a full sized version of the photo.)




500 Miles (and Sweat!)

On Friday, with a great deal of trepidation, I loaded Dressy up and took her to the Cayuse Canter ride. All week the weather report predicted higher and higher temperatures for the weekend. I just kept reminding myself that I could just not start if it was too hot, or pull after six miles if need be. She has not been sweating properly since Aprilfest (though I was initially focused on her heart arrythmia, I later realized that the lack of sweating likely caused the A-Fib).

Set speed rides have a speed range of 4 to 7 mph. You are disqualified for too fast or too slow. You get a score at the end which is roughly weighted halfway between average speed and final heart rate. So faster speeds and lower heart rates are the target. I planned on doing between 4 and 5 mph, which is a conservative pace for Dressy, and I was hoping that she would get through without overheating. But I was perfectly prepared to get off and walk her in she showed the slightest sign of distress.

I took along a case of Guinness (for Dressy, not me!), and also the newly arrived jar of “One AC”, the supplement that I ordered from the US. It was actually in my mailbox as I drove out the driveway with the rig. So that was serendipitous. She got her first dose of it on Friday night along with her Guinness.

Saturday morning, I went out with Emily and her little QH, Duke. Duke is new to all this, but he’s a trooper. He has a slower trot than Dressy, so I had Emily go out in front. It kept Dressy from rocketing off down the trail. We went out around the first big hay field, and down into some trees. Perhaps a half mile in, I reached down to rub Dressy’s neck, and my hand came away slippery with sweat. SWEAT!!! I was so excited I almost fell right off her. “It’s sweat!” I yelled at Emily. “Dressy is SWEATING!!!”

Duke trotted along at a perfectly even pace. I was beyond impressed with him. He trots up hills, down hills, around corners… never slows down, never speeds up. He’ll occasionally break to a canter, but still doesn’t really speed up. Just a nice easy canter on some uphills. As Quarter Horses go, he’s not big, and not heavily built. So although he certainly suffers more in the heat than an Arab, and takes a little longer to cool down, it’s not as much of a problem for him as it is for many of the bigger horses. His resting heart rate is 28, so even when he’s a bit hot, his heart rates are very respectable. Once he’s fitter, he’s going to be very competitive.

Donna and her young grey Arab, Sky, caught up with us a couple of miles into the loop and she rode with us the rest of the day. Sky was very well behaved and just followed along nicely. Donna was very happy with him. He liked the pace and seemed quite happy with Dressy and Duke.

Dressy continued to sweat. Donna could see a bit of foam between her hind legs too. Coming into the mid-check, I had a look at the heart rate monitor (I’ve been a bit obsessive about monitoring her heart rate). We were walking by then, and Dressy was already down to 58. I pulled her tack, sponged her off and checked with the stethoscope. She was 48 already, so well below parameter of 56 and we were able to walk right in to present for pulse (which meant that the clock stopped and our 40 minute hold started). She got all A’s in her exam. The vet listened to her heart for quite a while to make sure she sounded fine. But told me that other than her 2nd degree AV block (which she’s always had), she was in perfect rhythm.

Sky met parameter at the same time as Dressy, and Duke was just a few minutes later. Which meant that our out times were all pretty close. Donna waited the few extra minutes with me for Emily and Duke, and we went out together again. At the start of this loop, my gps was reading 7 miles. Since I’d forgotten to turn it on until we were out around the hayfield on the first loop and we were doing the “six” mile loop twice, that seemed a bit long. Even accounting for an extra few minutes of walking around to get to the vets.

Duke again went out in front. His ears were up, and he looked very happy to be leading. Although he looked at a few logs and rocks suspiciously, he never spooked, and maintained a remarkably even pace. Sky was very politely holding well back from Dressy. I told Donna and Emily that I was perfectly happy to have Dressy in between Duke and Sky, since it minimized the spooking. Donna found it hard to imagine Dressy being spooky, and Emily just laughed, since she’s seen Dressy zigging and zagging down the trail ahead of her. Eventually, I took Dressy out in front for a while and let her trot out a bit. We had a couple of fairly spectacular sideways leaps (which I’m happy to say I stuck with). I could hear loud giggles behind me all the while.

We didn’t stay in front for too long, since Dressy was quite excited, and I realized that maybe a Standardbred trot was an inappropriate speed for the two green horses behind us. Not to mention inappropriate for Dressy who I was trying to be careful with after all. And you know… I get kind of excited myself when Dressy trots out. It’s just remarkably fun to ride a fast horse. Tamping down my enthusiasm, I sent Emily ahead again. So Duke led for most of the day, with Sky taking a few turns. Sky was really good too, though he did startle at a few things along the way and stopped hard once or twice.

As it got towards noon, it really started getting hotter. The day eventually hit 30C and moderately humid. I heard that there were several cases of thumps (caused by an electrolyte imbalance), which we don’t often see in Ontario. So the weather was a challenge. Dressy never showed the least sign that she was in any sort of distress, or difficulty. The heart rate monitor showed a nice steady low rate all day (mostly around 110-120).

It took a few minutes longer to get her cooled down and to reach parameter at the final check. But it was still perfectly normal for her. We were quite comfortably inside our allowed 20 minutes. Her final 30 minute heart rate was 43. Very respectable.

After a perfectly wonderful lunch provided by my neighbour, Sue (I DO bring food, but hers was just so much better than mine!), I went over to do the scoring. I use a spreadsheet for that, so I just have to enter start time, finish time, and final pulse. Everything else is calculated automatically.

Everyone’s speeds were quite slow in both the 12 mile and the 26 mile rides. But later on, ride management adjusted the distances to 13 miles and 28 miles (many riders wear a gps, and everyone’s was reading quite a bit further than 12 and 26… mine said 14), so I adjusted the spreadsheet and that made the speeds a bit more normal. Dressy ended up with a grade 3 (5.1 mph + 43 HR). I was very pleased.

While I was sitting in the secretary’s trailer doing the scoring, I heard a bit of commotion. Ron Savard came riding into the vet check to ask for emergency services for a rider down on trail. It turned out to be Michelle. She was riding Allieena and the mare had fallen on her. Allieena fell at Aprilfest, and Michelle ended up in hospital then too. She returned later with her broken wrist in a cast. Ron went back out on trail and finished the fifty, albeit quite a bit later than he would otherwise have done. So he was the hero for the day. Well… no. Not the only hero… Quentin Llop who is both blind and paraplegic also finished the fifty along with his wife, Libby. For the rest of the weekend, every time I heard someone start to complain, they stopped and commented that they had no business complaining about anything at all after seeing Quentin ride. He was quite an inspiration to everyone.

Right after Ron Savard came in to report Michelle’s injury, an ambulance pulled into camp. I thought it was for Michelle, but it turned out to be for Ruth, whose horse was unusually spooky on trail. She came off twice. Both times she got back on and continued. She finished the 50. Got her horse vetted and THEN had an ambulance come for her. She returned to camp later, battered and bruised, but okay.

Sue, the neighbour with the wonderful lunch, was thrown from her young horse at Summer Solstice two weeks ago. It turned out that she’d fractured her pelvis in that fall. She said that her doctor was quite displeased that she was planning to ride. She rode both days on Peach in the 13 mile rides. And was still smiling at the end.

Helen was at this ride too. She’s a very long-time distance rider who has had some challenges in the last few years. She did the 28 mile set speed ride on Saturday and reached 4000 miles of competition in OCTRA on her young appy, Majik. Helen’s daughter adopted one of my ex-racehorse orphans. A failed young broodmare by Glitter Bee who they call BeeBee. So I got a lovely report on how much Dawn loves that mare and how successful she’s been in her conversion to a good trail horse.

After Saturday’s results, I was much more confident in Dressy’s safety. So I chose to go out again on Sunday. Emily and Duke had gone home. But Donna was so pleased with how Sky went along with Dressy and Duke that she elected to ride with me again. This time, Dressy led for much of the day. We moved out a bit more and ended up with an average of 6.14 mph. Her final heart rate was 39. Which is her lowest ever in a set speed ride. She got a grade 1 (which is the top grade).

Sky had a final heart rate of 34. Which was one of the lowest heart rates of the day. And they ended up with a grade 1 and the high score in the 13 mile. I had to leave before the awards, so I didn’t get to congratulate Donna. But I’m sure she was very happy with Sky.

Dressy did 26 miles between the two days. Which is not at all exceptional under normal circumstances of course. But after all our trials and tribulations over the last two months I was just thrilled with her. She was back to sweating completely normally. And to top it all off, she hit her 500 OCTRA miles level on Sunday. So she will get her mileage plaque this year.

Boots and Saddles: Convention – Hydration Seminar

This is a really good post summarizing the seminar that Susan Garlinghouse presented at the AERC convention recently on hydration in endurance horses. I read some notes that she put up on RideCamp prior to the convention and wished I could go just for that one talk. Luckily, Mel at Boots and Saddles attended and has posted her notes about it.

Boots and Saddles: Convention – Hydration Seminar.

Trotting Hills

Dressy got a really good grooming today. First the currycomb and the brush, then the vacuum, then another brushing. Yesterday when I was riding her, she eventually warmed up just enough to release all her accumulated horse/manure smells that had been ground into her coat all winter. Once it started wafting up, the smell was so strong it was nearly visible in waves in front of my face. Burning out my sinuses. Gah!   No way I was getting back on her today without her being a whole lot cleaner.  She enjoyed all the currying and vacuuming enormously. Quivering upper lip and all. I even put some conditioner in her mane and tail and brushed it all through. Her tail is looking exceptionally long and lovely this year. With all the blanketing she’s had this winter, it’s protected it from rubbing.

It was warm again today, and the frost is mostly out of the ground. With clay soil that means it’s a boggy mess everywhere. The fields are very soft, and the trails still have ice sheets covering them.  I didn’t want to go and ride on the roads alone, since the traffic around here is pretty bad during the week, and the roads have no shoulder. Bad enough even with company. Alone, Dressy would be less reliable. So I just rode back and forth on the driveway today. 4 miles of (mostly) walking down and trotting back up the hills.

I live on top of a moraine. It’s quite high, and on a good clear day, I can see for miles in all directions. My driveway is long and runs straight up from the road at a fairly steady grade to pass my house, whereupon it goes back down a steep hill towards the back of the farm. I think it’s about a quarter mile each way.

Then at the end we had another session of walking lessons. She gets herself worked up sometimes and thinks she has to rush. I don’t mind if she walks fast when I ask for a walk. Really fast even. But not jogging. Today we reversed and went away from home every time she broke out of a walk. She broke out into quite a sweat over the whole issue. But in the end she walked politely all the way up the hill and into the yard without fussing.

I was kind of a wimp though. It was raining, and I was bored. So we only rode for a little under an hour.  And yes, she smelled a LOT better 🙂

Winter Conditioning

I’ve been riding pretty steadily this winter. I’ve tried to ride at least every other day (usually Dressy, but sometimes King too),  Most days I finish up the morning chores between noon and 1pm.  Some days a bit earlier if all goes well. Then I have to be back to work around 3 or 3:30 to do afternoon chores. Once I eat some lunch, I can usually get in about an hour of riding.

Until last week I was keeping up well. I managed 16 days of riding in a month. Never too far. Most rides ended up around 4 to 5 miles I think. But at least we are getting out enough to keep Dressy from losing too much fitness anyway.

But life and work got in the way a little this past week. Jen normally does morning feeding, and last week she picked up some sort of virus and was really sick. So I had to get up earlier to feed at home before going in to work. Which also meant I was getting to work a bit later. So a bit less time and energy at midday. The weather has not been cooperating either. The temperatures dropped quite radically for a few days and the soggy footing turned to sheets of ice, since there’s almost no snow at all.  The footing is still quite treacherous.

It’s supposed to rain for the next couple of days, so I figured I had better get out and ride Dressy today. Managed to get in 5.35 miles. Dressy was quite rushy and excited.  It probably doesn’t help that the footing is terrible in the paddock beside the barn. Frozen lumpy mud. She must have had quite a lot of pent up energy. All things considered though, she was pretty good. She got up a bit of a head of steam at one point near the beginning of the ride. But after that, we worked on relaxed walking and trotting and she settled down. We are still just doing laps around the fields. Mostly around the front corn field, but today I managed to work her past all the sheets of ice and get to the back field for one lap towards the end of our ride.

I am hoping that once the racehorses at work go back to the track in February, and I don’t have quite as much work… and when it’s light a bit later in the day as well… that I can start putting in some longer rides. So she should come into the first rides quite fit. I hope!



Year End Points

I have just finished uploading the final set of ride results to the Ontario Competitive Trail Riding Association website (I’m the webmaster). With that final set of results, all the year end points are now up to date.

So… here’s the rundown on our various little blog stars…

Brooke, who rode Dressy for part of this year, and had her season cut short by a motorcycle accident, ended up as the 7th place Junior.

Diego (Misha’s horse – boarded here with me) just barely missed the top ten in Set Speed with an 11th place finish overall. He also finished in the top ten at only his second 50 in extreme heat. Passing horses on the last loop.

Blazing Grace, Chrystal’s little chestnut off-track Arab mare (she of the exceedingly hard luck history), entered three set speed rides. Won all three easily. And ended up in sixth place in Set Speed for the season. Her little chestnut butt was the star of yesterday’s blog post 🙂

Shorty (Short Circuit), the Standardbred/Arab cross that I rode at Spring Ride finished 8th in Set Speed for the season. He also finished his first 50 this year with his regular rider, Mike.

Foxy Baronessa (one of my old Standardbred racehorse charges) finished 21st (of 70) in Set Speed for the season.

Dressy Gal… my big bad boss mare… ended up Reserve Champion Set Speed horse. And will also get the High Point Standardbred award. She is a most excellent mare 🙂