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 šŸ™‚ 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 šŸ™‚ 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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Jefferson Forest


The Jefferson Forest is just down the road from me. Years ago, it was primarily horse trails. But the city has been taking over this area, and there are only a few horse farms left.

I think that we are about the only riders left using the Jefferson anymore. Mostly it’s dog walkers and mountain bikers now.

The forest is quite lovely, with steep hills, big trees, and lots of small ponds. I took some video, but as usual, it gives no real sense of how steep the grades are.

Ares is Going to His First Ride


This weekend, there is a training clinic and ride being held over in the Ganaraska Forest. Ana and Ares are now signed up for it. Saturday is the clinic. There will be a number of speakers (me among them) and demonstrations to teach beginners about the sport. Then Sunday there will be a short ride n tie in the morning, a lunch break, then a 15 mile ride in the afternoon.

Ana will be doing the ride n tie with Emily and Duke. Then will do as much of the 15 mile ride as she is comfortable with on Ares. It’s set up in five mile loops, and riders can stop at the end of any loop they want. Which makes it a good deal less intimidating. Ana isn’t sure she’ll be able to do the whole thing. However, she had no problem with a 9+ mile ride last week, and another today that was over 7 miles and a bit faster too.

This time we went over to the north tract of the Vivian Forest. The parking lot is north of the Vivian Rd on Hwy 48. We picked up Misha and Diego on our way over. Ares was, again, a star. He was calm and steady. He likes to go out in front and is remarkably un-spooky. He did spook once at something, but that was the first spook I’ve ever seen from him, and it was quite mild. Especially when compared to the two highly experienced trail horses with him who both made asses of themselves spooking at logs, rocks, weeds, and stumps. Sigh. It’s sad when the green, ex-racehorse has to be sent out in front to get everyone past a stump.

I think he’s ready for his debut. He seems to have fitted up pretty easily. He certainly hasn’t shown the slightest sign of being tired so far. Just bebops along on trail. The only complaint that Ana has about him is that he does still break to pace sometimes. But she found today that a bit of a half halt sometimes put him back in a trot. We’ll put a red ribbon in his tail too. Just for safety. He doesn’t like horses to pass him (he really does LIKE to be in front). And Ana is going to have to manage him carefully if any horses rush up behind him. Having Dressy with him should help.

Ana has been practicing trotting him out in hand. And we’ve done some practice vet checks with him. So hopefully he won’t be too terrified of the vets. It’s really my biggest concern… he’s often afraid of people he doesn’t know. We are going to keep Dressy beside him right through the vet checks, which I hope will give him confidence.

Training rides are a great place to start green horses. Most of the other horses are going slow, and everyone is willing to take time to deal with any issues that come up.

Ana is, of course, very excited about this ride šŸ™‚

Another Ride in the Vivian Forest… With Cookies


The little creek that feeds the dog pond

Today, I loaded Dressy on the trailer, and picked up Diego on our way to the Vivian Forest to ride. Diego has really started loading on the trailer well in the last little while. It was about 2-3 minutes to load him up this time. I suspect that he’s so happy to see Dressy that he doesn’t think much about resistance.

The weather was beautiful and consequently the forest was very busy. Lots of people, bikes, and dogs. Mostly lots and lots of DOGS. All well-behaved, amiable dogs this time.

There is a big rock along the trail to the dog pond that has a bronze plaque. Dressy has always been sure that big rocks are a really bad thing. Plaques ON rocks are downright evil monsters that stalk and kill horses. But I have finally convinced her that if she could just bring herself to sneak up and touch it, or even pretend to touch it that I will most likely come across with a delicious cookie. So she steels herself and sneaks up on it with quivering legs.

If I touch this evil horse-eating rock, do I get a cookie????

We went to the pond first, where we had our usual splashy bath, then headed out to loop around the trails. Dressy was quite calm and relaxed, and so was Diego. Though of course there were moments of excitement here and there.

Let me go! It’s just WAY easier to gallop wildly up this hill you know…

Dressy knows that I always carry a few cookies in my pommel pack, so she listens carefully for the sound of the zipper. But she’s also figured out that Misha carries cookies in her pack. And that Misha is very easily seduced into handing over the goodies. So sometimes she just reaches out, rests her nose on the pack, and wiggles her upper lip while looking coyly up at Misha. It always works.

Gimme those cookies Misha!

Do NOT feed those to Diego! He has no appreciation for cookies. I should get ALL of the cookies.

Ha! Score! I got all HIS cookies too!!!!

Lots of people at the pond. Dressy watches them carefully, but mostly hopes that they will have treats to hand over, just like Misha. That waiting family did not have goodies but they did admire her extravagantly, which she accepted regally as her due.

Diego was again a very good boy. He did get himself caught up in a stick at one point and came to a very abrupt halt from a canter. Which smashed Misha’s face against his poll with a rather loud “thwack!” It sounded quite uncomfortable. But it really wasn’t bad behaviour, just clumsiness. And at the end of the ride, he walked directly on the trailer without hesitating for even a split second.

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.Ā  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.