Monday, February 8, 2016

In which we walk and ride and ride and ride...and that's a good thing

Fiddle is doing fine.  Bored but fine.  

She will be on stall/paddock rest for another two weeks, and then we can start hand-walking 5 minutes per day for a week.  

Therapeutic eating
Obviously, this amount of activity isn't nearly enough to keep me out of trouble.  Fortunately, I have alternatives.

Lessons, and lots of them!

I've ridden Ariana three times this week.  On Thursday, I rode her in Patty's (Very. Wide.) saddle, and I couldn't get comfortable--it felt like driving a stolen truck wearing somebody else's shoes.

On Friday (for a lesson) I rode Ariana in Santa Jim's saddle, which is a very old version of mine.  That was MUCH more comfortable, and felt more like driving a stolen truck down a dirt road in bare feet with a friend and a cheese pizza.

Today I rode Ariana in Jim's saddle again, tied down the clanking D-rings and wished for the sheepskin cover on my saddle, because those old-time Specialized Saddle seats are ROCK. HARD.  So today felt like driving a stolen truck with dead shocks down a dirt road and hitting all the potholes.

But today we went faster.  I even cantered!  Badly, at first, but then (with coaching from Patty) not-as-badly.  

But first

Who loves Ross more, Patty or Sirie?  28-year-old Ross doesn't care,
as long as the women admire him.

we went walking.

I'm not comfortable about sitting out even part of the endurance season while Fiddle is healing, and so I've decided that  to kill time I, and whoever wants to join me, need to train for a 5-k.  

This is not quite as crazy as it sounds.  The last time I had a lame horse was 2006, I think...and Jim and I trained for marathons that year.  Walking, not running, but still.   

This year, I'm still re-learning how to use my legs post-surgery, so a 5-k is a good achievable goal.  Hopefully my horse won't be lame long enough for me to prep for a marathon!

We're hoping to stage our own, non-sanctioned, fun-only 5-k in April at Fish Creek Farm.  We'll mark off a course, yell "go" and twirl ourselves around for 3.1 miles before returning to the Party Room at the farm for a feast and t-shirt exchange.  But first we gotta train!

So, we walked around Fish Creek, supposedly measuring routes, but really just as an excuse to get the dogs

Connor and Angus:  water dogs!

plus Ross, of course

He's 28 years old, and still figures that he's
All That And A Bag of Chips AND A PICKLE!

out and walking around under non-rainy skies.

And then, we rode.  Ariana and I are still figuring out how to communicate, and Patty wanted to try out a saddle with a tremendously wide twist, so there was a lot of "no, not that, do this," and "oh, hey I like that!" going on in the arena.

Also, Crystal is visiting briefly before deploying back to The Sandbox, and we wanted to hang out with her.  We like Crystal.  She likes us, and she likes playing "ponies" with us.

Crystal is one of those amazing, lovely, annoying people who can start off with a horse being slightly knuckleheaded

Hana:  "I can only trot forward if I throw my head up and hollow my
back.  Honest!  Otherwise I can't trot."
and take just a few instructions and a demonstration from Patty about half-halts to end up with a horse who is being round and lovely.

Hana:  "I can bend!  It's a Christmas Miracle!" 

Patty and I worked on stuff from our lesson on Friday 

Shoulder fore, haunches in, and bunches of lateral work
and also just doodled around a bunch.

Patty:  "Bend!  Bend!"
Flower:  "I'm bending!  I'm bending!"

It was a good day.

Fiddle in her "confinement" corral.  The food is good here.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

In which my horse is lame and I try to learn a new skill to help her

Fiddle is lame, and I am sad.

Doctor Fehr says that most horses with this kind of injury would heal up
"pretty well" if they just got thrown out to pasture for 6 months or a year.
But "pretty well" healed isn't good enough for Fiddle, so we are doing more.

Our best guess is that she did a "horse thing" in the pasture, aka "did something stupid and I can't tell you because it's a secret horse thing, nyahh."

At first I was worried that our extremely long endurance season had permanently injured my mare.

We won a lot of awards this year, but none of them would be worth anything
if the distance had harmed Fiddle

Then I remembered that we had taken a few lessons after ride season was over and before she started short-striding.  We have video from a lesson and she was definitely sound for that.

A few weeks later, the video taken during the warm-up to a lesson shows something entirely different.

(the people talking in the background are discussing another horse)

So what happened?

I guess you have to be a horse to know, and I'm not a horse.

Of course, I immediately called the in, I unsaddled the Dragon and stood beside the trailer in the parking lot to call the vet before we even drove home.

Dr. Fehr came out the next week to do some diagnostics on Fiddle (and on Flower, who is showing an unrelated lameness).

Flexion testing, starting down low and working up the leg, both sides

Flower's soreness seems to be in her hocks.  But Fiddle's was a little harder to isolate.

Dr. Fehr did flexion testing on both hind legs, starting at the pasterns and working upwards. 

Flex the left hock for 60 seconds, then watch the horse trot out

Finally, we got to the right side stifle.

Please do not try this test at home!  Dr Fehr emphasizes that it is easy to
injure a horse with this maneuver , and it should be done only by a vet.

And there it was.

We took some x-rays to rule out a bone injury and arthritic changes.

No visible bone damage or arthritis.  That's good.

Fiddle isn't pastured with any other horses, and the goats can't reach up to her stifle, so we would have been surprised to find a kick-injury on her stifle.  And we didn't.

The injury appears to be soft-tissue only, and she has a good prognosis for return to her full work.  Her stifle was injected with hyaluronic acid to ease the swelling and speed healing in the area.  We will also add Adequan to her regimen (as $oon a$ I get paid again, that $tuff is expen$ive!).

Fee had to be sedated twice for the injection--that spot is ouchy and tickle-y!

So now, we wait.


Waiting.  Patiently waiting.

Waiting.  Waiting.  Waiting.


Our treatment plan:

4 weeks stall/paddock rest with hand-grazing.  I've set up her corral panels in the yard so she can have a few hours each day eating grass in a confined area.  That also gives her a daily change of scenery.

We are two weeks into the stall rest now, and she's handling confinement pretty well (but I've added a dose of Quietex to her breakfast, just to make sure--we don't need her getting excited and leaping around for any reason!)

After 4 weeks of enforced rest, I can WALK her in-hand, 5 minutes per day the first week, 10 minutes the next week and so on.

After 4 weeks of hand-walking, when we are up to 20 minutes of walking per day, we will re-check with the vet, and possibly start 5 minutes of RIDING per day AT A WALK.

It's gonna be a long boring Spring, sigh.

But bringing my Dragon back to full soundness will be worth it.  

So I'm patient.  Patient.  PATIENT!!!

Okay, I'm not patient.  

But I will borrow other horses for lessons and trails, and I will follow the doc's instructions.  Dr. Fehr is a smart vet.  If she says I can be patient, maybe I can be.  



Sunday, January 31, 2016

In which turnabout is fair play, and I am very publicly pwned

Pwn is a leetspeak slang term derived from the verb own, as meaning to appropriate or to conquer to gain ownership. The term implies domination or humiliation of a rival, used primarily in the Internet-based video game culture to taunt an opponent who has just been soundly defeated (e.g., "You just got pwned!")

The Usual Suspects at the PNER Convention.
Not everybody was in on the secret...but some were...

Some readers will remember the sneakery and trickery needed last year to surprise Gail Williams with the Ann Parr Trails Preservation Award, which I got to present to her at the AERC Convention last year.  

Apparently, when Gail discovered that I could only afford to attend the regional convention this year and not the national one--even though I was scheduled to be given the AERC High Mileage Standardbred award this year--she decided that turnabout was due.

Blithely telling Susan Garlinghouse that she was a major motivator for
trying to win the STB award this year, because Dr G has a new STB mare
who is going to be HOT STUFF on the endurance trail.  Once Pippin gets
going, I won't have a chance of winning, so I made my move.

I knew I'd be getting some regional awards at the PNER banquet.  

They called me to make sure they had the right sizes for her awards
(size Very Huge)

But I thought the STB award would just show up in the mail.

I reckoned without Gail.

Gail made some phone calls, and through some sneakery and trickery of her own, managed to divert the award and had it sent to her instead of me.

Then, she contacted the PTB's of the regional banquet and secretly added my award to the roster.

I was completely clueless, and when I figured it out...well, you can see the video for yourself.

I've promised to go to the national convention in two or three years
so I can present the award to Susan Garlinghouse when she wins it.
It seems only fair!


Saturday, January 23, 2016

In which we celebrate THREE Sensible Horses and one rider

Standardbred rider Dom is known to many readers of this blog because she writes a popular mostly-horse-and-dog-but-also-pretty-pictures blog of her own.  

You can read her blog HERE...and you can read about Dom HERE.  

Dom is one of many people I "know" online that I hope to meet someday IRL.  I've stolen some images from her blog for this post--if you like them, you should visit the blog and enjoy more!

Here's what Dom says about her favorite three endurance Standardbreds:

Ozzy (Oz the Great) is a 2001 gelding by Lindy Lane. 

Ozzy and Dom
He is 16hh on the dot. He almost died at birth (red bag, septic, dummy foal, etc.) He failed out of racing without ever making a start, though my former boss gave him every chance to succeed.

Ozzy, age 3,  NOT a successful race horse

 I got him as a six year old when I left my job at the track. He was my first horse and I fell in love with riding as far as I could before I even knew endurance was a sport. 

Oz the Great.  Do you love his nose?  I love his nose.
Photo by Dom.

By chance, I ended up boarding at an endurance rider's farm and she introduced me to AERC and hauled us to our first rides. We did our first 50 less than a year later. 

Ozzy and Dom
Ozzy took me all over the place, competing in lots of LD's, a handful of 50's, and bunch of CTR's before I had to retire him due to EPM. He was my intro to the sport. 

My favorite ride story involves someone cantering up to me at Mustang Memorial and saying, "Did you know that your horse is currently trotting at 14mph?" I replied, "Yeah. This is his medium trot!" The guy laughed, then said, "Well, I can't keep this pace!" and dropped back.

Team Sensible is also Team Trot
He competed (and even earned top ten on a few occasions!) despite a bowed tendon, two suspensories, and a heart murmur (all of which he got before I got him!) and a bad bout of Lyme. He only has 240 AERC miles, but he was the very definition of a war horse, and got me hooked on the sport. 

STBs can canter!  photo by Dom

Looking back, he was never as sure footed as his Arab counter parts, and I can't believe I ever trotted him down hill, but he was fearless, game, and unflappable.

Rayzer (EJ's Rayzer) is a 2004 pacer. 

Rayzer and Dom.
photo by Wanda Clowater

Rayzer raced 30 times and made $22k before she ended up at the Standardbred Retirement Foundation

She came through the program while I was [working] there. She was western broke and had a wicked buck, which led to her being returned. I rode her for her evaluation, expecting the worst, and found out that she was a very sweet, very willing horse. She never did buck.

Dom, where is your helmet?!?!

One of my co-workers adopted her, but wasn't much of a rider and enlisted my help to keep the mare exercised. Ozzy was dealing with some on-off NQR lameness at the time, so I made her my trail riding buddy. As it turns out, she had a knack for trail riding and was fearless. I did a few solo trail rides with her, added on the miles, and signed her up for the Pine Tree in 2011. We drove all the way up to Maine and she camped like a pro. I had used Glue On boots with her, and she ripped two off in her pen over night! By the end of the first loop, she'd lost them all. That didn't slow us down any though! I had the farrier put shoes on her all around and went back up for the rest of the ride. 

Girls just wanna!

Despite it being her first real ride and despite the pouring rain, we finished 3rd (and probably would have won if I'd just had her shod to start with!) She didn't put a foot wrong all day, even when we rode past scary logging equipment.

O yeah... and we picked up a junior to sponsor in the last several miles. It was the kid's first top ten!  Three weeks (and almost no riding) later, I entered her in the Vermont Moonlight 50. It was my first moonlight ride and Rayzer certainly had no idea what she was in for. On the way up, we blew a tire on the trailer. Rayzer didn't even bat an eye. We rode slow and steady in the blistering heat all day. 

At the last hold, our buddy got pulled and I went out into the dark by myself. Rayzer handled everything with grace and dignity and we completed a few hours later to the roar of the crowd at the finish. The Moonlight is a ride/run and there were runners doing 100 miles on foot. I spent several miles jogging quietly along one guy in particular, and he asked, "What is this? Are you my pacer?" I cackled like a mad woman because... well.. she WAS a PACER!!!! The guy didn't get it. 

My favorite part was coming into "Margaritaville", a pit stop for the runners. The crowd there was electric and they shouted supportive things and cheered for everyone, rider and runner alike. Rayzer must have thought she was back on the track. She had been dragging a little at that point, and when the crowd started calling her name, she pricked her ears, flagged her tail, and really stepped out. I will also say that by the time we finished that 50, she cantered along like a dead broke quarter horse, not a standardbred who "can't canter".  I even forgave her for trying to roll in Rojek's pond at the beginning of the ride.  She was a fat thing and Art King commented, "Oh, rolley polley horse, when we started." At the end of the ride, he admitted he was impressed at how unfazed she seemed by the whole thing.

And then there's Clover, (registered as Extra Virgin.) 

She was born at Hanover Shoe, flunked out of the yearling auction, and was bought by Russell Williams, who placed her in SRF as a two year old (I think). She went to an adopter who couldn't handle her and returned her skinny, and in poor shape.

I rehabbed her, restarted her, and discovered another really awesome little horse.

She's actually a half sister to Ozzy, but she's chestnut and people think she's an Arab.

Clover and Dom

I had met Ival at an endurance ride when she got run away with by her other STB mare, Shortie (Short's Flame). She used Ozzy as a bumper to stop (after asking permission to do so). When she called SRF looking for a horse, I remembered her and Wendy and told them I had the perfect candidate for them.

Clover.  Photo by Dom.

Ival took Clover out for a ride and loved her immediately. She even enjoyed her first canter in several years! They took the mare and it was the start of a beautiful friendship for the two of them and me. They took me to lots of rides and Clover and Ozzy did many miles of trail together. Ival's motto is "to arrive is to win" and she'll sometimes pull if it's not fun for her any more. 

Clover is an incredible and very safe little mare. She has given pony rides to kids, pleasure drives between trail riding (despite never being in harness training!) , babysits young, green horses, and even allowed an adult re-rider to complete her first CTR this past spring.

Dom and Clover
Kenneth Martin, Smith's Photography

I was lucky enough to catch ride her at Biltmore last year. It was a tough, blistering hot 55 miles, and it made me fall in love with the ride (and even more in love with the mare). We finished 6th, and I rode on a loose rein for the entire day. Clover is still going strong, and I'm sure I'll have more updates on her in the future.

We haven't (nearly) run out of Sensible Standardbreds to highlight.  Want to suggest one?  The comment box is open!  Want to read the rest of the series?

Part 3:     Ink
Part 4:     Bunny

Thursday, January 21, 2016

In which we spotlight another Sensible Horse: meet Pureform Bunny!

Today's Sensible Horse is from my home Northwest Region:  
Pureform Bunny and her owner Heather Wimer!

This is part 4 of an ongoing series of posts about Standardbreds in endurance. 

Part 3:     Ink

Heather and Bunny
photo by Jessica Wynne
Bunny is a 15.1 hand 2005 Standardbred mare who raced prior to coming to Greener Pastures, and won about $40,000.  When she stopped bringing home paychecks, she was retired sound and donated to Greener Pastures, where she was evaluated and started under saddle.

Heather traveled to British Columbia in 2011 seeking a Sensible Gelding at GP, but none of the boys really suited her.  Alina, the adoption coordinator, suggested that she try Bunny.  Heather resisted...she really was seeking a gelding...but Bunny really was (and is!) the right horse.

Here's what Heather has to say about Bunny:

photo by Jessica Wynne
Bunny is such a joy to ride. Her athleticism has encourage me to get in better shape myself so that I can hold up my end of our partnership. She gets better and better each time we do a ride and I can't wait to see what the future holds for us.

We did our first LD ride in 2012, our first 50 mile ride in 2013 and our first 100 mile ride in 2014.

We have done 100 LD miles and 750 endurance miles, including 2 100 mile rides. She won the AERC High Mileage Standardbred award for 2012 and 2013. In 2013 we were 4th place in the middleweight division for the NorthWest. 

Mile 75 of their first 100-miler
Notice the mare's kindly, expressive eye
Bunny has the best work ethic of any horse I have ever met. She gives her all every time I ride her. She works very hard to please and has a tendency to take everything very seriously.  

(Truth be told:  so do I!)

We have had to work on not letting race brain get the best of us, as she is very competitive. We also make a concerted effort to relax and enjoy life.

Bunny is in charge--Heather was sick all day at the April Daze 2015 ride!
Photo by Monica Bretherton
I am flirting with the idea of riding the 100 mile AERC championship this year, just for the sake of experience. Bunny and I are also hoping to ride Tevis some time in the next couple years.

Bunny is the middle-sized Standie!
L-to-R: Pureform Syd with Kandi Robbins,
Bunny and Heather, Fiddle and Aarene.  Photo by Monica Bretherton

My long term goals with Bunny include seeing her reach at least 3000 endurance miles and achieving Decade Team status. 

I am so proud of Bunny and Heather.  They've come a long way as a team, and still have plenty of fun ahead.

If you are able to attend the 2016 PNER Convention in Portland (January 29-30), please stop in and listen to Heather's session on Friday morning!

I am seeking more Sensible Interviews.  If you know of another horse to include in this series of posts about Standardbreds in endurance, please contact me via the comment box.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

In which a Swampland Farm needs one more thing to keep the stuff running right

There's an old saying that the only things you need in life are duct tape and WD-40.

If it moves and shouldn't, use duct tape.
If it doesn't move and should, use WD-40.

But here in the Swamp, we have one more essential ingredient: 

The answer is not "a tractor."  But the tractor at
Fish Creek is pretty handy


For various reasons, we were all in a deep funk on Sunday, and not even related to a certain regionally-popular football team loss.  Only a few of the Usual Suspects are football fans, and Monica, Patty and Duana and I are not any of them.

Patty brings the gravel with the tractor,
and the rest of us distribute it into the potholes

There is something very satisfying about gravel.  Especially for Swamplanders.  So when we were hanging around feeling blue the other day, we decided to move gravel for a while.

Patty posted a 12-second Facebook video of us shoveling gravel, and 40 people "liked" the video in about two hours, and several people said they wanted to shovel gravel too.

Including me.  And Mel.  And Mel's new junior, Jordan.

BONUS:  I was given an enormous roll of landscape fabric--FREE!

So, the very next day...we got a bunch of gravel and shoveled it at my house!

Monica's back was hurting, so she helped for a while, and then
opted to take pictures so she'd be able to walk the following day.

Black fabric in January:  MmmMMMmm nice and warm!

For the first time in 5 (!!!) years, we stripped Fiddle's stall down to the gravel layer, and leveled it out again.

Mel and I have similar child-rearing beliefs:
"Here, kid, this tool is called a pulaski.
Lemme show you how you're gonna use it."

When everything was flat, we backed up the trucks, and started moving gravel.

We started with 5/8 minus gravel for the bottom layer

It rained on-and-off during the early part of the day--the perfect weather to work inside the barn!

Mel's big dually 1-ton truck is a BEAST.
And I mean that in the best possible way.

We emptied out two tons of gravel from the big truck and then looked at the time:

"It's only 2:30pm -- we still have more than 2 hours of daylight!"  

After a stop for tea and cookies (essential to a pity party--remember, this all started because we were feeling sad!) we went back to the gravel yard and got another 2 tons of gravel.

You can never have too much gravel!

When Fee's stall was deeply bedded in gravel, we smashed it down a bit 

6 inches + deep!
and added wood pellets for bedding.  And floofs.

Fiddle totally played "bouncy house" in the stall all night.  
Meanwhile, out in the paddock...

Monica directed the paddock mud removal project, with Jordan helping.
Then we backed the truck in and started moving more gravel.

Fiddle totally objected to A. Truck. Parked. In. Her. Paddock. So. Wrong.  Wrong! WRONG!!!!

Fiddle chose to pout off-camera

She did everything she could think of to say that, while Mel is a lovely person, and a splendid farrier, and a brilliant provider of carrots, she believes that, seriously, Mel can't park for diddly.  

We laughed.  The Dragon didn't appreciate the laughter, which will amaze my readers worldwide.

Landscape fabric over the mud

First layer of gravel--not nearly enough. You can never have too much gravel.

We worked in shifts, trading jobs so everybody got full-body tired.

Top layer: pea gravel

Finished product:

Dragon-sized bouncy house
We didn't have time/daylight/money/muscle enough to gravel the entire 24x24 paddock.  But we moved 5 tons of gravel, and fixed the two main sections where she usually stands, plus the 12x12 stall.

And that was ENOUGH for one day.

And at the end of the was GOOD.