Monday, April 27, 2009

Beautiful but Very Windy Days

It has been such wonderful weather for spending time outside! Sunny skies, warm spring air (in the 80s!) and plenty of breeze (or should I say gusting winds!) to keep from getting too hot.

Unfortunately, I haven't done ANY riding!

I am still allowed too, though. On Tuesday I went to the OB for a regular checkup (everything is normal!) and asked again about whether riding was safe, and for about how long could I keep doing it. He surprised me by saying it was fine until about 18-20 weeks! This is much longer than I expected to be "allowed" to ride by the Doctor, so I am pleased to hear his response. In reality, however, I know the only real risk in riding while pregnant is not in the riding, it's in the falling off, so I am being super careful not to take any extra risks.

And, for me and my horse, that means choosing not to saddle up on a really nice weather weekend, since wind tends to make normally in-animate objects unpredictable. So here's hoping the wind dies down some!

Arabee's cut still isn't completely healed yet, although it's looking much much better. I'm still concerned about how the slice through the coronet band is going to heal - it's too early to tell yet whether things will be normal again with that or not, but overall she is healing well. The paddock finally got dry enough all over to allow her 24 hour turnout again! This equals a MUCH happier horse! (and a happier stall-mucker who's now gladly w/out a job shoveling poop!) So if ever the wind stops blowing, I'll have plenty of places to ride, since the ground is dried up and her cut will stay clean.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Our ride at home Today

Matt and I rode Arabee today. I went first, then when he got tired of walking, he rode. We stayed on either gravel or the road to keep dirt out of her cut, and she did great, though we didn't ride very long at all. It probably took longer to tack up and untack than we spent riding!

I made sure to wear the shirt I was given for helping out at the Chicken Chase!

I decided Matt needs a bigger horse and a bigger saddle of his own! And his own helmet - he had to adjust the chin strap on mine. (I'm pretty sure he hasn't bought into the idea yet!)

I'm happy w/ the new saddle pad, though it does add a lot of bulk under the leg compared to the Skito. The saddle flap panel hangs over a little at the back, but not in a problematic way, it's just not as visually appealing, but no problem!

Arabee's cut is healing up very nicely, I think. Since Saturday morning she's been on grassy turnout during the day, then I bring her back in, hose the cut clean with cold water, then hand walk her until it's dry, then wrap her leg and put her in her stall overnight. I am SO grateful it's finally time to start turning the horses out on pasture! (and so are the horses!)

Chicken Chase I - Clark State Forest

Some photos from Friday of the 55 and 30 mile rides.

Will likely post more text later! Too nice outside to do more now!

**Monday morning update:

Arrived at ridecamp at 5:30am on Friday. Still dark, as evidenced by the photo of the closed gate. No activity, even though I had thought the ride was supposed to start at 5:30.

Turns out, the 55 miler started at 7am, and the 30 miler at 9am. Once people finally started moving around (a truck and trailer pulled up behind me and I was unfortunately blocking their path to get into ridecamp) I found the ride manager and introduced myself. We'd been communicating over email so I wasn't a surprise, and she put me to work finding out what riders were what number. There were I think 29 entered in the 55, and all but three riders were going to start at 7. The group of three was planning on going out after the main group.

They had a controlled start, where all riders had to stay behind the first horse until they crossed the road. Ridecamp is on the other side of the road from where the trail started, so rather than having crazy racing on the pavement, they had the controlled start. It was BEAUTIFUL watching the sun rise through the trees at ridecamp. I'm sorry I didn't get a picture to share.

All vet checks on Friday were to be away from camp, and I was sent along with a group of people who headed over there at around 7:30am. We unloaded crew bags and buckets of the riders who didn't have crews, and my job was to be the scribe for the vets. I mostly scribed for Maureen in the morning.

The first riders came in after the 20 mile first loop, horses totally wet with sweat and steaming a good 15 feet up into the cool morning air. I have to apologize to Maureen, since she had to put up with a learning scribe, but I like to think I caught on fairly quickly. (hopefully!)

I feel like I got the hang of what the hold looks like at a ride: ride in, get in-time, pulse down, get official pulse taken and start the hold time, vet through, take horse back with a cooler over the rump, water, water, hay, come back if vet noticed a concerning issue, tack up and saddle up just before hold is over, then alert the out person that you're leaving, and head off down the trail!

After the majority of the 55-ers came in, the first of the LD riders starting coming in. I believe there were 26 riders in the LD, they got letters instead of numbers. It got pretty hairy there for a while, lots of nervous horses milling around in the pulse area waiting to be vetted. I was glad when they finally filtered through since I was a bit nervous of taking a hoof or getting run down. But everything was fine. A pizza delivery person came and brought lunch for the ride workers, and that was a welcome treat! Around 1 or so, a group of people headed back to ridecamp where the finish line was for the LD, and I went with them, since LD is where I want to start with Arabee so I wanted to see what went on. Just before we left a group of 3 riders had come in too quickly to have finished the 2nd loop of trail - they had missed the Shaw and Wildlife loops and had to backtrack. So since they hadn't done the second hold yet, it was going to be a while before Maureen could leave the away vet check.'

We had a bit of a wait before any riders started coming in, so several people had chairs set up in front of the pulse in area and waited for the first riders to come back in. Mike was the vet at ridecamp, and who I scribed for the second half of the day.

The LD horses didn't get their finish time until they had pulsed down to 60 or below. Of the first group of two horses in, the first rider had a tough time getting her horse into the pulse area, made of step-in posts and yellow tape - he was pretty nervous about that tape fluttering in the wind, so unfortunately that caused her to lose the first place to the other horse (but I don't think she minded too much, but probably a little disappointing). This last picture has the first two horses in for the LD on the left side (not great, since you can only see their hind ends, but still, that is them!)

About the time the top ten LD finishers came in, one rider and her chestnut horse came slowly walking in horse in-hand. They'd had a wreck, but thankfully the rider was okay. I guess on some of the really steep uphills the saddle had started slipping and caused the horse to unseat his rider, and he went bounding down hill with his saddle upside down, and got some "rope" burns on his legs. They thought he'd be fine, but he was pretty sore. Disappointing for them, but the rider was genuinely concerned about her horse and was going to take great care of him it seemed.

About then the first of the 55 mile riders came in. The finish line for that ride was somewhere else down the trail, just out of sight of ridecamp. Someone sat at the finish line and took the times for the first 12 or so riders, and after that the finish times were taken in camp. For the 55 milers, their finish times are taken right away, they don't have to pulse down first, but they do have to within a certain time frame. So shortly after they got in they did go to the pulse takers and then vet in for completion. Because of the staggered ride times the 55 milers were being judged for BC about the same time as the LD horses and riders were coming in for completions, which made things somewhat confusing (for me) but I really enjoyed watching the process of Best Condition judging. Someday I want to be able to stand for the BC judging, but not for a while. I'll get some good completions on Arabee before I ever try to top 10, but the more thorough vet examination would be very valuable information. It was surprising to me to see many of the top 10 finishers turn down the BC judging - not sure the why's on that one, to me the more in-depth check you can get the better.

About when the BC judging was finished for the LDs, and wrapping up for the 55s, more riders were coming in for completions for both distances, plus people were wanting to vet their horses in for Saturday's ride. Not only that, but there was a horse who was tying up, and then later a horse was colicking and needed attention at its trailer. So it got pretty busy there for a while with only one vet at ridecamp, since Maureen was still out at the away check. Shortly after Mike came back from the colic, Maureen arrived, and Mike scored the BCs, and Maureen took over the vetting. Things started calming down, and both vets mainly vetted in the next day's horses, with an occassional completion coming in.

I had planned on staying until the end of the 55 mile ride, but that was when I thought it would be finished by around 6pm. I got a call from Matt around 7:15 wondering what my plans were, and I decided I'd better head home, with our little girl at home and home being about an hour away. I started saying goodbyes, wishing I could stay, but I was WORN OUT! I didn't do much but take notes all day, but still I was tired. I learned so much about the sport in one day that I hope to get to most of the rides in Indiana this summer to do more volunteering and learning and meeting people. I really appreciated all the people who went out of their way to talk to me and make me feel welcome, and I am very much looking forward to next April when hopefully I can come and compete on Arabee!

I walked down through ridecamp once to see if I could find Jacke and her horse - there were a LOT of trailers and horses there - it was jam-packed full. There were supposed to be 50 riders in the LD alone on Saturday - so a lot of people on the trail! I talked to Jacke for a while and it turned out she had all the help she needed for Saturday, so I headed back towards the car. I wasn't planning on coming back on Saturday, but since I knew there was a chance she'd have to crew alone on Phebes first ride I wanted to make sure. Got stopped by Cindy and she asked me if I learned anything - a resounding YES! Just can't wait to do it myself. It was a VERY GOOD THING that I did not try to take Arabee to this ride, even if she hadn't had the cut on her leg - I would have been clueless about what was going on. Now I feel like whenever I finally get to be able to compete that I will be much better prepared for the goings on and be a better guide for my horse.

I found myself really wishing I would have driven down again for just the LD on Saturday. There were quite a few people I actually knew for that ride, plus those I had just met the day before, but I was just beat after Friday. I can sure tell a difference in my energy levels with this pregnancy! Plus, this time all the vet checks were in camp, and so I wanted to see what that was like, but there will be other rides I can try to get to this season. My family had a wonderful day together at home on Saturday, working with the cows and then moving them out to pasture, and I cleaned Arabee's stall, and walked her, and then later on we rode (much fun!) then had a cookout just the three of us. Tried looking for mushrooms (morels) but it was too dry. Still fun walking in the woods and seeing all the wildflowers. A really great weekend overall!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Got My New Saddle Pad

My new saddle pad came in over the weekend. Back in February, I ordered a demo Skito pad from Trumbull Mtn. Saddle shop, since they are a dealer for both Skito and Toklat pads. I figured they’d be an unbiased source, and they suggested I try the demo before I purchased a pad.

I’m glad I did, because while I did find the Skito to have several very nice qualities, I had a hard time believing it was truly worth the price tag. I called them back and ordered a Toklat pad – a Coolback pad, based on their recommendations, and they said it would take about 3 weeks to get it from Toklat and then to me. Graciously, they allowed me to continue using the demo Skito until my new pad arrived.

I received a call last week saying that they received the pad, but that rather than being black, as I had requested, it came in as blue. Apparantly Toklat misread the abbreviated “BL.” She offered to either re-order the pad, or give me a discount on the blue pad. I went ahead and bought the blue pad, since after all blue is my favorite color (sky blue, although the pad is more of a royal blue), and I love a good discount!

It won’t clash too terribly with the 2 Jade green Renegade hoof boots I have, and maybe by the time I get ready to order a second pair the company will offer blue ones – it might be kinda fun to have the trotting diagonal pairs matching colors – Green on left front, right hind, and blue on right front, left hind. I plan on selling the used pair of Easyboot Epics I bought, since I do like the Renegade’s so well and I won’t be using them at all until next year anyway, I thought I’d let them find some usefulness somewhere else. So, if anyone is interested in a pair of size 0’s, just let me know!

I hope I do get to ride a few more times this summer. I’m afraid though that by the time Arabee’s healed enough to ride, I will be too big and pregnant to get on board! Arabee’s cut is looking worse, but even so I think it is healing well. Sometimes injuries start to look worse even though they are getting better. I just wish the ground was dry and I wouldn’t have to keep her in her stall to keep her wound clean – in addition to the swelling around the cut, all four legs are stocking up slightly, adding to the awful swelling around her coronet band. Poor girl. I’m going to give her a few minutes of hand walking pretty soon, then get her out again for a longer walk this evening to try to keep the swelling down to a minimum. Hope it’s not pouring down rain now like it was earlier!
**Update: I walked Arabee for about 10-15 minutes briskly, put a fresh pillow wrap on her leg, and it looks *much better* than it did last night. I didn't put any nitrofurazone/dexamethazone on last night, or today, and I think it was good to give her a break. Seems the oozy wetness of the ointment might have been irritating the surrounding skin. Her cut looks good, and is closing up well. Still open flesh, and still predicting rain, so it is hard to say when she can be turned out, but until then, things are improving!


So I still plan on going to the Chicken Chase this coming weekend, although not as a competitor. I’ll be volunteering and learning as much as I can by “absorption.” It should be a good experience for me, and Arabee is well on the mend, although her wound is not closed well enough for me to allow her to get muddy, so still no riding at this point.

Even if Arabee’s cut would have healed before the ride (it's healing well, though) she would not have been fit enough to try to tackle the 25 miles with so much time off, so there won’t be any competing for me and Arabee this year, although I will continue to work with her. My goal is to start logging competitive miles in 2010.

Why the long wait??

I’m so excited to announce that my husband and I are expecting our second child around the end of October, first of November. While it can be safe to ride while pregnant, it is certainly risky to do so, so I won’t be doing any competing with Arabee, just pleasure riding until my belly gets too big to make it comfortable, and after Arabee's cut is healed.

Hope to jump back onto the conditioning trail by the first of January, 2010, and perhaps Chicken Chase 2010 will be our first competition. In the mean time, my family and I have lots of exciting things to be looking forward to!

pregnancy calendar

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Stall Bound . . . Mostly

Arabee has been in her stall mostly all day and all night since Friday when she got her cut. At first she was pretty tense, and I could sense she was seriously considering rushing over top of me when I opened the stall door to get out. Thankfully she didn't do that, and has calmed down. She gets at least (usually much more) 10 minutes of hand walking and jogging every day, and I'm changing her bandage every 2 days as recommended.

I'll change her wrap again this morning very shortly. I'll first hose it clean, and I plan to trim the long hairs around the edge of the cut this time. Before it seemed much too tender for her to allow me to do this, but I am hoping now she'll allow me to do that. It looked much improved already on Monday morning, so I am hoping for even more improvement today.

Last night my husband set up a temporary fence in a grassy area for Arabee. I wanted to give her the chance at some unrestricted movement (Freedom!) after being stalled for so long, but the pastures are not yet ready for hoof traffic. It's much too soft and any large animal (horse or cow) moving over it would just tear up the grass, and pasture management is important now - the better you take care of your grass the less hay you end up having to feed in winter. So we set up the temporary fence in a section of a field entrance that is close to 1 acre that has well established, never been grazed (since no real fencing) grass. It is sturdy enough that her hoofprints wouldn't have hurt it, and at the same time, all we'd been doing was mowing that section anyway, so any grazing we get out of it would be good.

You can see the lane at the right, and there's woven wire fence along the tree line, and a good section of woven wire along the road, and a gate at the lane. We put up a single strand of 1" wide electric tape (which you probably can't see in the picture) with a few step-in posts and made a triangle. I stayed out w/ Arabee for about 20 minutes (it was COLD and WINDY last night!) and if I wouldn't have chased her around I do believe she would have stood in one spot and ate all the grass there.

She was pretty greedy - huge mouthfuls of grass, and when she'd lift her head up to stop to chew (it's a wonder she ever did!) I'd ask her to trot out a bit. Then I'd say "easy" and she'd immediately drop down to a halt and stuff as much grass into her mouth as possible. She wound up getting decent exercise - more freely than if she'd been on the end of a lead rope, and I think she greatly enjoyed the grass!

Off to go dress the wound!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Friday's Story

My original plan was to ride at daylight Friday AM, but with it having been pouring down rain all night, and winds gusting to 40+ mph, I decided to postpone since the forecast showed the winds laying down a bit later in the afternoon. When I finally decided I couldn't wait any more, at 4:30pm, it was still plenty windy, but not as bad.

I decided I needed to use the rump rug since I'd planned on putting a good hour of trotting in on her, which would've gotten Arabee nice and sweaty, and I didn't want her to chill with that wind. She acted as though she'd never seen it before! I always flap it around her while she walks a circle around me to make sure she hasn't forgotten what it looks like when the wind catches it, and she finally was okay with that, but on the walk to where I'd planned on mounting up (about 100 ft) she spooked 6 or 7 times from the wind catching the rug! This mare if she's spooky on the ground, you can count on her not paying a LICK of attention under saddle.

So, rather than risking my neck, I decided to free longe her for about 20 minutes in the paddock with all her tack on, getting the fresh off since she was so jumpy in the wind and hadn't been ridden in about a week. She was nice and calm - obeying perfectly my walk, trot, canter, whoa commands - calmly and without rushing. We'd been going this way for about 15 minutes, and I was about to call it quits and hop on, when out of the blue she just took off - tucked tail, ears flat back and she RAN away. I have no clue what it was that caused her to do that.

When she got to the end of the paddock at the full out run, she slid into the fence panel, then I kept her going a round or two at a canter. All that running had caused the stirrup to fall off the saddle, so I stopped her to put it back on, and when I did that the bright red mud down by her foot caught my eye. So she'd been cut, but I couldn't tell at all how badly, since she had mud up to her fetlock, so I brought her out to hose down the leg, and it was pretty nasty. (I decided not to post the pictures up, but if anyone really wants to see, put your email in my comments and I"ll send the pic to you. it's ouchy looking).

At the same time I discovered the "red mud" my husband called me and said there was a heifer that needed help calving - he and his dad were able to get her in, but it was obvious she needed help with the calf. Since Arabee's wasn't life threatening, after I hosed her leg and took her tack off I put her in her stall until we were able to pull the calf (he was BIG!) and then we took a better look at her. The last post said we planned to take her to the vet Saturday AM, which we did.

I felt silly, since all he actually did was pretty much what I would have done: nitrofurazone on gauze, wrapped with cotton, then held on with vetrap (only I would've used my washable quilts and a leg wrap). I just have never dealt with a hoof injury before, so I was unsure of myself. He did also give her tetanus and penicillin, and we brought Jack along and they both got their annual vaccines, so it was good we went. He did also mix something (dexamethasone??) with the nitrofurazin ointment.

She's been in her stall since then, and has NOT been a happy camper about it, either. I just can't let her in the lot with that fetlock deep mud at this point. I'm supposed to change her bandage every 2 days, so right after I post this I'm going to go unwrap, hose down, hand walk her for at least 10 minutes for exercise, then re-wrap her leg.

Fortunately, she has not been favoring that leg, but I just can't see trying to get on the trail since I know there will be spots with really deep mud that would just grind into her cut. So conditioning is on hold for now. The ride on April 18th is absolutely out for me bringing Arabee, but I am going to see if ride management needs any volunteers so I can still go and learn that way.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Do you see that huge divot that goes almost 6 inches on the other side of the fence? Also, do you see that little tiny edge of rod that sticks out below the rest of the fence panel?

The divot was made by my dear Arabee's right front hoof. The tiny rod that pokes out below the rest of the fence left a nasty divot in Arabee. Left a 1/4" deep x 1/4" wide drag mark that starts 2-3 inches above her hoof, through the coronet band, then even cut into her hoof about an inch.

I hosed it clean, and called the vet's office after hours and left a message. While waiting for them to call back, I hobbled Arabee to graze, while we ate dinner and watched her out the window. The Dr. called back and suggested I just wrap the leg with a cotton pillow wrap and we plan to bring her in for an appointment at 8am. He won't stitch it, but I wanted tips on how best to care for it since I've neve dealt with a hoof injury, and she'll get some shots (penicillin and tetanus). Both horses are due for their annual booster in April sometime anyway, so I'll take both Jack and Arabee for that too and save a trip.

She doesn't favor that leg, but I don't want to take any chances for proud flesh or some other complication, so we're taking her in.

Here she is waiting while we cleaned out all of the sawdust from her stall. I wanted straw in there instead so she would less chance of getting her wound dirty. I'd already wrapped her leg, and Jack is standing by.

Since I didn't even get to ride tonight, and definitely won't get to tomorrow, it is strongly looking as though our first 25 mile ride will be postponed. I'd hoped to ride in the Chicken Chase at Clark State Forest in Indiana on April 18th, but thats really not an option anymore - it'll be quite a while before this wound heals well enough for me to be comfortable with allowing mud anywhere near it, which means she'll be off the training trail for who knows how long.

Disappointing, but there's always next year. (more on that to come next week!)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Girth Photos

This is the new girth. Didn't actually ride due to time constraints being closer than I thought they'd be - will try it tomorrow, rain or shine. I tried something a little different with the billets, and now it is placed well back of even the farthest back rub spot, so I am hopeful!

Any comments on the breastcollar adjustment? I am unsure of the proper adjustment of that piece of tack. The girth doesn't have any D-rings, but the breastcollar I am using was designed w/ enough length to use the breastcollar itself to go around the girth instead of a girth loop. The strap that goes between her legs to the girth is at is longest setting, it can go shorter, and it probably needs to - it seems long to me, but I am not sure?

New Stuff/Hobbled Grazing

UPS left Arabee's new girth on my front porch today. Can't wait to try it out.

I hope riding tonight won't push her too fast. There are little tiny hairs beginning to grow back on her bare patches, and the skin looks pretty normal. It doesn't look like it's "peeling" anymore, like a sunburn the way it used to - now it looks just sort of flaky, but mostly normal. I'll at least go out and try the saddle and girth on to see how it looks, adjust the breastcollar since the girth doesn't have a D-ring, and what have you. Whether I actually ride or not will depend on both the mare's skin and the weather - rain is forecasted.

Those of you who've dealt with girth chafing problems before - how do you know when it's safe to try riding again??

I also ordered a helmet - a Tipperary. The helmet I'd been wearing was near 10 years old, and had never been very comfortable. It always dug into my forehead, and had started to give me headaches if I wore it for very long (like more than 2 hours). I decided that if distance is the sport of choice, then a comfier helmet was necessary. I really like the Tipperary - I wore it while making macaroni and cheese right after it arrived! Hopefully I get to ride in it today. I had my husband try it on - and he said it didn't feel like he was wearing a helmet, more like wearing a hat. Pretty accurate. But then, my old helmet may have just been that poor of a fit!


Yesterday, 29 year old Jack (my first horse) learned a new trick. I taught him how to stand hobbled, and he acted as if he'd done it all his life. First I used the lead rope around one foreleg at a time to move it around, then used the rope as hobbles, and when he'd proven that didn't phase him and that he understood giving to the pressure - I hobbled him up in the grassy yard. He GREATLY enjoyed this, and will likely begin having grazing sessions like this much more frequently.

Arabee is sure she got the raw end of that deal. Not only did she have to stay in the paddock by herself, but she also had to endure watching that gelding eat grass and get groomed while she whinnied and bucked and snorted to no avail! After Jack had proven he was comfortable with the hobbles, she got some exercise. What I'd hoped was to sort of free-longe her in the paddock, what I got was a tail-over-the-back prancey trot, occassional leaps over muddy spots, and a way way too out-of-breath horse. I should have known better since she was so indignant that Jack got priveledges she didn't, but I think she quite enjoyed herself (and I enjoyed watching her!).