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.

Diego

Diego

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.)

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Queen’s Bush Training Ride


On Sunday morning, Anastasija went in to work at 5am so she could get the mares and foals turned out at work and get back home by 6. By the time she got back, I had fed the horses and packed up the last few items. Ana was bouncing with excitement. She and Ares have done a couple of rides in the past, but last year she just didn’t have time to compete, so it’s been a while.

I went into Diego’s stall and put a halter on him, which immediately set him off. Change in routine… EEEKKK! “She’s gonna put me on the trailer!!!! Oh no, oh no, oh NO!!!!!” I left him to do wild-eyed laps around his stall for a few minutes.

Meanwhile Ana put some of Dressy’s old Easyboot Gloves on Ares. After rasping off a bit of flare, the boots fit him perfectly. Diego calmed down considerably as he watched Ares being booted and groomed and fussed over. He is both claustrophobic and herdbound, so travelling on a trailer alone is a double whammy. Knowing that Ares would be going settled him right down. Ares loaded like an old pro (which of course, as an off-track Standardbred, he is). Diego still hesitated for a minute or two, but it was really only a matter of form. He loaded up and backed into his stall across from Ares and started eating his hay calmly. After the last trip (which I never got around to writing about), where he seemed to revert completely back to his bad trailering days, I was very happy and offered gushing compliments on his intelligence, good manners, and wonderfully handsome self. Also cookies. All of which he accepted graciously while I attached the chest bar.

We were on the road by about 6:40am. The drive to Owen Sound is a bit more than 2 hours. On a Sunday morning, very early, it’s mostly an easy, traffic-free run. Much easier on the horses that way too.

The weather was beautiful, which was a big change from last year’s event which involved a mini-blizzard. Quite a few more riders showed up as a result. It was a nice mix of beginners and experienced riders. There were talks in the morning to explain all the rules, how the vetting works, how to read the trail markings, etc.

The morning training sessions

The morning training sessions

There was, as always, a really nice lunch. I was the only vegetarian there, and Doug (the ride manager) was kind enough to provide veggie dogs instead of the chili, which Sue Two-Names roasted ESPECIALLY for me, over the barbecue, on tree branches that she chose, cut, and peeled by hand. So I felt quite spoiled 🙂

After lunch was the ride talk. I got Ana over to listen to it, but I could see that she was starting to vibrate with excitement and probably wasn’t concentrating too well. It really didn’t matter too much. The trail was well marked and other than riding past one perfectly obvious turn arrow on BOTH loops, we had no problems.

Ares was much calmer than he was the first year that Ana brought him out. They’ve become much more of a team, and Ares trusts her implicitly. He’s a silly worrywart of a horse, but he’d walk through fire for her (shaking in his boots the whole time mind you!). He coped much better with the vetting and was not so anxious at the start.

Diego was pretty good too. He wasn’t upset or stressed. But he’s not really all that good at standing still for any length of time. So I did have to remind him to stand for the vet.

Emily and her Quarter Horse, Duke went out with us at the start. Ares led the way initially. He was a little rushy, but not crazy anxious. Diego was fine. Not even excited really. Ares in front, Duke behind… all was right in Diego’s little world. Eventually we put Emily and Duke in front, because Duke is just a rock. He trots along, steady, forward, and never spooks. Well… okay. He spooked. Big spook. Emily didn’t even flinch though. I waited to see if she’d say anything and a few strides later, Emily commented “You know… when I started this, I’d have been completely undone by that spook!” I laughed, because that was exactly what I’d been thinking. Emily has gained such an amazing degree of confidence in both her own ability and in Duke’s reliability since I first met them a couple of years ago.

Emily and Duke trotting out at the finish

Emily and Duke trotting out at the finish

The trails were very steep and winding, so Ares (who is still wearing at least half of his winter coat) did get quite hot and sweaty. He huffed and puffed at the top of all the hills. Ana was pretty alarmed and had visions of Ares failing to pass the parameter check (heart rate of 56 in 20 minutes). Even Diego was sweating, and he has lost all of his winter coat and generally loves hot weather.

When we got in off the first loop, Ana got a bit frazzled at how long it was taking Ares’ heart rate to drop. Diego was down within a couple of minutes, but I had to wash him off completely because all the dirt that he’d been saving up all winter (and that I thought I’d brushed out of him) had percolated up to the surface and black sludge was oozing down his sides and legs like toxic waste. Once he was marginally cleaner, I got the heart rate monitor wand and started tracking Ares’ recovery. He was fine, just still not quite cool. It took him about 12-14 minutes to get to 56. Considering that Ana herself was not at all calm, and that probably contributed, I wasn’t too worried about it. In the end, he vetted through just fine.

Anastasija and Ares - final trot out for the vets

Anastasija and Ares – final trot out for the vets

On the second loop, we walked more on the hills and took slightly longer. Ana worked on getting Ares to moderate his speed. He has a rocket propelled trot which Diego has to gallop to keep up with. It can be a bit uneven too, since he tends to surge forward and abruptly slow again. So Ana worked on an easy slow jog. Of course, to any horse but a Standardbred, that amounts to a strong, forward trot. Perfect.

Partway through, I tried to get Diego to take the lead and move out. He was fine taking the lead. But his idea about that is to go out front and show everyone how to enjoy the scenery at a leisurely pace. I asked him what sort of endurance horse he thought he was. “Endurance horse????” he said, “who told you I was an endurance horse? That sounds like something only a crazy horse would do!!” So I tried enthusiasm. “Fun, Diego!!! We are having FUN!! Woo Hoo!!!” I tried flapping my arms, cheering, laughing (okay that might not have been me… might have been Ana and Emily laughing at my antics… whatever!). All he did was go from a western pleasure jog to an ambling trot. I think I did get a couple of canter strides up one hill. Mind you, when Earl and Ace went zooshing ahead, Diego suddenly became all business. He took hold and tried to go after them. I didn’t let him go, but it was at least a faint glimmer of hope that one day he might actually want to go a little faster.

Ares on the left, Diego on the right. Hopefully I was just trying to find my stirrup or something and I don't actually ride like that!

Ares on the left, Diego on the right. Hopefully I was just trying to find my stirrup or something and I don’t actually ride like that!

At the finish, I had Ana get off and walk with Ares for the final few hundred feet to give him a head start on his recovery. He wasn’t quite as hot as a result. Ana was better organized and much calmer for the second check too, and so Ares came down to parameter faster. Diego, being his usual self, was down to 48 the minute I pulled the tack. He’s really the perfect horse for a lazy rider. Though he did manage to ooze out another layer of sludge that I had to sponge off prior to vetting. He’s not nicknamed Pigpen for nothing.

I also forgot Diego’s face towel. That’s always a bit of a disaster. His face gets awfully itchy when he’s working. He stops every couple of miles to rub his face on his leg, and by the time he gets into the check, he’s trying to crawl out of his own skin. He literally can’t stand the itch. He knows he’s not supposed to rub his head on humans, but he gets a little crazed with the itch and dances around trying to find something anything to rub his face on. It can make it difficult to get him to stand for the vetting. Must remember that damn towel next time!

Ares, Diego, and Duke at the vetting

Ares, Diego, and Duke at the vetting

Ares, Duke, and Diego all passed the vetting fine and got completions. It was a training ride, so no placings or awards. Just mileage. But we all had fun, and Ana learned quite a bit about managing Ares and how to cool him. Ana’s riding has also visibly improved since she started with Ares (probably partly due to all the ponying at the track last year). She’s more balanced, her hands are better, and her lower leg is much steadier. Ares looks more balanced carrying her, and is much calmer on trail. They’ve both improved tremendously over the last two years.

Once we were all done, we loaded the horses. And Diego walked straight on the trailer with no fuss at all. Marched up the ramp, turned around, backed into his stall and started eating hay happily. Perfect end to the day 🙂

Diego

Diego

[Oh… and thanks to Veronica for all the photos!!!]

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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.

Coates Creek Set Speed Ride


The weather forecast for yesterday`s ride looked pretty bad most of the week. And Saturday was a really awful day. But when I got up Sunday morning (well… when Misha called me from her car… already stressing about getting Diego on the trailer) the pre-dawn was reasonably bright from the moonlight, and the wind had died.  I would have been happy enough with cold and rain. But there would have been a lot of cranky volunteers for us to deal with. It turned out to be a cool, fresh October day with occasional bouts of sunshine, and absolutely gorgeous trails.

Diego was a little sticky about the trailer, and Misha was losing it a bit when I got out. Not falling apart, but starting to vibrate a little. She handed me the stock whip and I stood on Diego`s near side to prevent him from evading to that side. I don`t generally do much. Just stand there and make him nervous. But eventually, as usual with him, he allowed the unsettling person behind and the encouraging person in front to entice him on.  He`s a good little horse, but he wasn`t broke until he was 11 or thereabouts, and still thinks he should make his own decisions. Trailers have always been a problem for him.

Dressy, of course, loaded up directly. As always. She marches up, turns herself around and backs right in. “Do up that chest bar,  gimme my cookie and my hay bag, and let`s go“.

It’s about an hour and a half to Coates Creek ride site, and at 6am on a Sunday morning, traffic is near non-existent. So it was an easy trip. We arrived just as vetting started. Misha set up her electric paddock and split it down the middle to give Dressy half. It’s one of those Zareba EZEE corrals, and I have to say that although it looks nice, and the theory is good, in practice the damn thing never seems to work the way it should. Yesterday, it went up okay, but the power didn’t work. Turned out not to matter, as they were not  in it for long. But I prefer my homemade electric paddock with the cheap step in posts, a ground rod, a roll of wire, and a Zareba Yellow Jacket portable fencer. Cheap, easy, and it actually works.

There were 20 horses entered in the 31 mile Bronze level ride (which is between 4 and 7 miles per hour), and 6 horses in the Silver level ride (between 5 and 8 mph).  There were three loops, with a gate at the end of the first and a regular full vet check at the end of the second loop. A gate is where you ride in, get your horse down to a 64 heart rate, and trot for the vets to watch (for lameness) as you ride out. The clock continues to run through that type of hold. I haven’t done a gate before at a set speed ride, and I really underestimated how much it would slow us down. Towards the end of the first loop, my GPS was reading around 8.5mph average. By the time I rode out, it had dropped to around 7mph. It gradually climbed back up through that second loop. But we really never made up that time. The full vet check didn’t have as much of an impact, since the clock stopped when we reached parameter (56bpm) and we started our 40 minute hold.

Dressy really moved out on the first loop. It was unfortunate as it turned out, because she bonded to a group of horses that don’t pace well for her purposes. Dressy has a nice big trot, and she can go reasonably fast. But her forte is her steadiness. She goes out and trots fast and steady (12+ mph), and she can maintain that for a long time. But at 14-16mph the trot is much too extended. At 16mph she starts breaking to gallop, and definitely cannot maintain that for a long time. It takes way too much out of her.

I struggled with her quite a bit. I tried taking her back, but she’d decided that the big grey thoroughbred was her friend, and she wanted to catch him. She paced, and fought me, and kept catching up. So after the first ten miles when we went through the gate, I held back so they were long gone. But she power trotted until she caught them. If they’d maintained that 14-16mph speed, we never would have. But they were alternating between galloping fast and trotting slow. So overall she would have actually travelled faster… If I could have separated her from them. But there’s no way I could have passed, since I’m pretty sure those horses would have gone with her. I also find in the first few miles that Dressy can be very spooky in the lead. So I generally want her knowing there are horses ahead that she can focus on catching, instead of focusing on the monsters in the bushes.

At the 20 mile vet check, I held back and waited for Sue T. She’d lost her riding buddy (pulled) and wanted to ride with someone. That suited me, because she is a very experienced rider and rides a steady pace. Which is what Dressy needed to do as well. That loop was much better for Dressy. She was a little tired after all the shenanigans on the first two loops. But she trotted the whole thing without any issues. Chrystal and Grace passed us on that loop and Dressy went with her for quite a distance. But eventually we let her go, since her pace is a bit fast for Sue’s horse.

A look at my GPS track is quite enlightening. The first loop has radical up/down peaks from speeding up and slowing down. The second loop is steady and even through the first half (when we were alone and trotting) and then back to up/down peaks after we caught up again. Then the last loop is back to smooth steady trotting with Sue and her horse Trevor.

We did not make the target speed of 8mph. And in fact just missed the 7mph speed. Although my GPS shows a speed of 7.2mph. I was very pleased with her anyway. She had a good pulse at her final check, and easily reached parameter at the checks. Although we slowed down and let those three horses go ahead, Dressy still got 2nd place. So it paid off to manage her pace a little bit.

Chrystal’s horse, Grace won the Bronze level ride. By far. In fact Grace won the high score of the day… by miles. Her final pulse was 36. Chrystal took an extra long hold. Slowed her down as much as she could, and still finished in 6.99mph. The absolute maximum speed allowed for Bronze. If you watch that horse move, it doesn’t look like she’s working at all, and you can’t imagine that it’s fast. But try and follow on another horse and look at your gps…. Like a little streak of lightning, that mare.

Diego had a good ride. Placed third in the Set Speed, behind Wendy’s young horse Firefly. He looked good all day when I saw him. Although Misha always looked unhappy to see us… Diego had a meltdown every time he laid eyes on his boss mare. Tore up his (non-electrified) paddock at the mid-check when we went out just as he had come in. Had a hissy fit on the trail when we passed him going the other way on two way trail. Not pleasant for Misha that’s for sure.

However, after we loaded him in the trailer, Misha thought that he looked a little off colour. Wouldn’t take a treat from her hand. I loaded Dressy, gave her a cookie, and handed one to Diego. He didn’t take one from me either. We headed out, figuring that it was better just to get him home. The vet at that ride was Kathy, and she was going to stop by my place on her way home to look at King’s face (he still has a hard lump in his cheek where he was kicked). So we would have a vet available a few minutes after arriving at home anyway.

I stopped at Tim Horton’s to get an iced tea (I was desperately thirsty) and Misha checked on him again. By then he was shaking and sweating. She was quite alarmed, and we got right back on the road. She called Kathy, who was just a few minutes behind us. If you’re going to have a horse colic on a trailer, it sure feels better to have a vet right behind you.

We got him home and unloaded him. Stripped off the soaked cooler, and put him in a dry cooler and blanket. There was no manure in the trailer, so obviously he was a bit constipated. Misha walked him for a few minutes until Kathy got there. He had gut sounds but they were definitely reduced and gassy sounding. Kathy arrived, gave him some banamine, and got some mineral oil into him. It took about 45 minutes before he finally passed some manure. It was just a small amount and quite dry. But after that he got steadily better. This morning he’s his usual obnoxious self. Kathy said that there were a couple of other horses at the ride that were of concern too. She figured it was the colder weather bothering them. Diego is definitely a hot weather horse, so that makes sense.

Dressy of course, flourishes in the cold. She was bright-eyed and sassy while she tried to divert everyone’s attention away from Diego and onto her dietary needs. She wanted food, and she wanted as much of it as she could stuff into her greedy face.

Dressy Beat the Heat


Got back from the Seoul’s Corners ride late last night. I left before the 75 and 100 mile horses finished. But I hear that Patti Stedman won the 75. Elaine Steele won the 100. Michelle Bignell and Allieena won the 50. Pat St. Jean and Black Bart’s Perfect won Best Condition. Ron Savard won High Vet Score.

Chrystal’s mare, Grace had a little mishap on a slippery bit of rock and fell just after the start of the fifty. Grace was a bit sore at first, then sorted herself out. But by the end of the second loop she was stiffening up a little, so they were pulled. She was well-behaved and reasonably steady and fast. So I think Chrystal was pleased with that at least, despite the bad luck.

Dressy was wonderful. We did the 25 miles. I had hoped that this ride would be cooler and more to Dressy’s taste. But that was not to be. The high was 27C, but the humidity averaged 83%, with a high of 100%. I had sweat running in my eyes even before I got on her for an 8am start. Luckily, the humidity went down a little bit on the second loop. Otherwise it would have been a lot tougher on Dressy.

She put on a bit of a show for the spectators before the start. We were waiting for Savanah (the junior who rode with me) to finish tacking up her arab, Merlin. Dressy was going around and around in circles, so I decided to trot her up towards the start and back. But she thought it would be better to thunder up there at a gallop. Then she thought it’d be great fun to crowhop back down again. All of this in front of spectators with cameras. Of course.  I growled at her and she stopped. She’s not generally bad, but the start is a very exciting time for her. She did settle though and managed to walk out fairly politely once we hooked up with our junior and went out on trail.

Although I was wilting (and by later in the ride… stupid) from the heat, Dressy was forward and alert for the entire first loop. Her first vet check was perfect. All A’s and a 10/10 CRI (cardiac recovery index). She didn’t even seem all that hot at that point. Just hungry and thirsty.

She went along very well for most of the second loop too. (If you look at the video, most of it was taken on the second loop, and you can see her perky ears.) Until I got lost. Though of course I didn’t know I was lost. Dressy sure did. She suddenly went flat and refused to trot. I thought the heat was getting to her. But no… her rider’s idiocy was getting to her. We walked for a while before I realized something was wrong. Then backtracked. And went past the elusive turn the other way. Walked some more (Dressy was NOT going to trot in the wrong direction – she’s no fool). I finally resorted to looking at my GPS and turning on the “Return to Home” function. That worked. Of course. Made the correct turn (the red turn ribbon had wrapped around the tree branch so I couldn’t see it), and Dressy miraculously recovered enough to want to gallop. She was very pleased to get to the water trough. Not nearly so pleased when I made her go back out of camp for the final five mile loop. I had to send Savanah ahead with Merlin. He trotted along, dragging a reluctant and increasingly hot Dressy to another water trough about 3 miles from the finish. I cooled her rather frantically and she did look a lot better after that. Then we turned back for camp and Dressy perked up a little. Still hot, but she was still willing to trot. And in the last mile, she was back to alternating trot and gallop. Good thing too… we crossed the finish line 2 minutes before the cutoff time.

Took the full 30 minutes to get her temperature and heart rate down. Chrystal and a very nice and very helpful boy whose name I cannot remember were a great help sponging Dressy. I was not all that functional by then. I think I drank about three iced teas out of my cooler without stopping. Then stood in a bit of a stupor for a while. Chrys said I looked way worse than my horse.

Her pulse was 16 (in 15 seconds… so 64 bpm which was the parameter she needed to meet) when I took her in. The vet (Stan) said her heart sounded nice and steady. When they are tired, their heart rate speeds up and slows down, so that was a good sign. Cap refill, etc were good. She had to come back for a gut sound check (so did Merlin… and quite a few other horses) as she was down in two quadrants. As soon as she ate though, she was completely fine. Merlin was also fine once he was rechecked.

This was Merlin and Savanah’s first 25 miler. He looked great all the way through. They had a little boot issue in the first mile and elected to go barefoot the rest of the way. It didn’t look to me as though he had any problem at all with the footing. He must have very good feet. Nice little horse. They both looked good at the end. Savanah should be very proud. Especially considering that they probably actually went 30+ miles due to their sponsor getting lost and leading them astray.

It was WAY too hot and humid. Given the conditions, I cannot believe Dressy did so well. She actually looked good at the end. Hot, but still bright-eyed and alert. Still spooking at things. Jumping around
when water went on her. Looking to eat other horses’ dinners. She ate three meals out at the first check (Grace’s, her own, and Harley’s). Ate two meals at the end. Plus a bunch of hay. Some carrots. A bucket
of water. More hay. Treats. The vaccuum that ate the world…

The drive home was fairly awful. It started raining shortly after I pulled onto the highway. It came and went all the way home. Sometimes quite torrential, which made driving difficult between the dark and the water on the road, and the stupid drivers who think nothing of cutting off vehicles with limited stopping power. I got home safely four hours later and unloaded a very bright-eyed and bouncing Dressy. Then did a relieved face plant in my bed.

Dressy At Summer’s End


Yesterday I took Dressy (and Diego as well) to Summer’s End Training Ride over in Bailieboro, Ontario, which is just on the edge of the Ganaraska Forest. It’s a very pretty area, with lots of hills.

In the morning we had the clinic portion. First Marg Murray and Marion Shearer gave an overview presentation of the different disciplines that OCTRA offers… Endurance, Competitive Trail, Ride n Tie, Set Speed, and Mileage rides. Each has slightly different rules, but the training is essentially the same for the horses. It’s the equivalent of human marathon training.  After Marg and Marion were finished, Dr Kathy Kivi talked about electrolytes and horse health.

Rose Danko gave an explanation of Set Speed rules. It’s a new discipline in OCTRA, and not well understood by most members. But basically it’s between 10 and 50 miles. A speed range is set, depending on competition level. Yesterday’s ride was between 4 and 7 mph. In a graded ride, the competitors are awarded grades depending on the combined score of pulse and speed. A low pulse and a high speed will give you the best grade. Grades are, from highest to lowest, 1, 2, 3, 4, or completion.

After Rose was done, I gave a quick demonstration of how to present your horse to the judges and what the horse health check is all about. I’m a lay judge when I’m not competing myself. Which means that I perform vet checks at competitions (under the supervision of the head veterinarian).

Finally, Julie Green gave a presentation on hoof care and booting. She’s an EasyCare distributor and her husband is a barefoot trimmer. There seemed to be lots of interest in the topic.

The weather was horribly hot. The temperature was 27 C, but humidity was 95%. It was just awful. Heat has always been a problem for Dressy, so that was not a good sign.

Dressy and I sponsored Solstice in the Ride n Tie. Her little mare was quite excited, so I ponied them out the first little bit of the loop until we got into the forest and she could tuck her in behind Dressy to keep her slowed down. She’s a cute little horse, but was a little bit boggled by all the excitement.

The little mare was not the only horse boggled… Diego threw a hissy fit when his boss mare left. I could hear Misha yelling at him as we disappeared into the trees. I heard later that his initial vet check was very out of control. Though I think he improved through the day.

Solstice and her dad won the ride n tie. The other team, Michelle and her daughter Cassandra, were right behind us. Dressy and I won a $10 Tim Horton’s gift certificate for sponsoring the winners, which was nice.

Dressy’s vet checks in the ride n tie were good. No problems. We went back out to do the 15 mile Set Speed ride shortly afterwards. We sponsored Laura, who was riding Sue Downing’s 19 year old Arab mare, Holly. (I just looked it up, and I think that Holly just got her 1000 miles yesterday!)

There were three 5 mile loops, with the option (since it was a training ride) to stop after any loop and take that mileage. Dressy did well on the first loop. Good heart rates. At the first check, she drank well and was absolutely starving. She vetted through fine. I tacked her back up (with some help from Julie – who was a big help to everyone at the checks) and led her over to let her drink and suddenly she started acting like she wanted to drop and roll. Immediately I had a total panic attack, thinking she must be colicky. Ripped the tack back off her and took her back over to the vet (jumping the line in the process). The vet checked her over, but couldn’t find anything wrong. She wasn’t trying to roll, and had gut sounds all around. The vet thought that maybe she’d had a bit of a gas bubble or something. So we tacked back up and went out again for our second 5 mile loop.

For the first couple of miles she seemed fine. Then I thought she seemed a little less forward. I checked her heart rate and found that it wasn’t registering on the watch. The monitor had shifted a bit under the girth and wasn’t reading. I reached down and tinkered with it and started getting some intermittent readings. None of them very good. Mostly up in the 140 to 160 range. They may or may not have been valid readings, but I was a bit worried. So I told Laura we needed to walk for a while. Eventually I got more reliable readings and she seemed to have dropped down to a more reasonable level. By the time we hit the end of that five miles, I thought that she might have stopped sweating, which really worried me. She felt extremely hot to the touch. So I figured we were probably done for the day.

At the check, she had a nice low pulse… 36. The judge noted that she was skipping heart beats, which is something she normally does, so of no concern. But she skipped for a bit longer than usual and several times during the 15 second count (she was trying to nap at the time). And when she trotted out for her CRI (cardiac recovery index), she woke up again. Second count was 14. Which is very very bad. The judge pointed out that it was just because she did not skip any beats on the second count, but Dressy has had enough 9/9 CRIs that I know there is no excuse for a 9/14. Her trot out was a bit wonky for a couple of steps, but the vet watched it on a second trot and decided that it was just a bit of toe-dragging and not a lameness. She got a completion. But probably only because I was not going on for another loop.  She was very hungry at that check too, and gobbled up every bit of food she could find. Drank well all day. Had lots of electrolytes.

I really think she was suffering from heat exhaustion. She has never done well when it was hot. And I think that the heat and humidity wiped her out. She was completely herself again within about half an hour. The vet checked her over once more and found nothing wrong. She had gut sounds all the way around all day. Came off the trailer at home looking good. Looks good today.

And, despite all the worry… she ended up taking a grade 1 in the 10 mile set speed ride. Her final pulse was 36 and average speed was 6mph. So by the numbers, she did really well.

I sent Laura back out for the third loop with Marg, and they did finish the 15 miles. Which gave Holly her long-awaited 1000 miles. Holly has been out of competition for a few years due to a very bad injury that Sue suffered. It was bad enough that she was told never to ride again, and so gave up riding Holly, who can be a bit of a handful (especially if there are cows in the vicinity!). Sue now rides the lovely and very quiet Foxy, who is one of my rehomed Standardbreds. This year, Holly has been ridden by a junior rider and has been creeping up on the 1000 mile mark. She sure was cheerful out on trail. You can tell that Holly just loves going down the trail. She looked like a five year old bouncing along out there.

Diego had an excellent day. He has no problems with heat. In fact he’s one of those crazy Arabs who gets cold if you put too much water on him. He did the 15 miles fast enough that he had to wait a while before the finish line so he didn’t get disqualified for finishing too fast. His final pulse was 40 and average speed was just under 7mph. So he got a grade 1 as well (in the 15 mile Set Speed).

Chrystal’s horse Grace finished her first ride too. She also got a grade 1 (Chrystal and Misha rode together… galloping like a pair of hooligans). Grace came off the Arab racetrack and her brain has been a bit of a problem. But Chrystal said she did well. No meltdowns. Of course that could be just because they went fast enough that brakes weren’t all that necessary 🙂