Friday, April 6, 2018

Eastern Mojave Scenic

Before we left, I brought DC up and glued a set of boots on her. She has been without shoes all around since some time in January. I'd taken her hinds off with the intention of resetting them, only to find I was out of the nails for her shoes. Oops. And by the time this ride came around, I hadn't acquired more. But, at Death Valley, Dave Rabe had given me a full set of size 00 EasyBoot glue-ons. I already had a pair of 0s for her fronts. So I went ahead and did a full set of glue ons for this ride.

We had an uneventful drive to camp and found a decent place to park where I could put Hoss out on his stake. It was even still daylight when we arrived. It seems no matter how early I leave for a ride, I cannot seem to get there until the last minute. I even miss ride meetings for driving late. So it's extra nice when I can manage to arrive at a reasonable hour.

With DC having had trouble in the past with rides, I decided I'd ride Hoss the first day so she could settle in. She does fine by herself in camp, other than not eating anything other than hay, and I hoped by leaving her she would have time to recover and rehydrate from the drive.

Day 1

In the morning I got Hoss saddled up and we got out on trail. It was a nice day, not cold and not hot. While it was chilly, I was able to leave my jacket at camp rather than have to deal with it during the day.

Hoss was extra happy to hit the trail and behaved pretty well. It shouldn't be surprising after 4,000+ miles. I suppose ultimately it doesn't matter how many miles a horse has done, one can never be sure what horse they've brought until they're on the trail.

We chugged along on our own for the first several miles, then hooked up with Cathy Bartusek and her new horse. So we spent the rest of the day with them.

Hoss was happy to have company, although we went slower than we would normally on our own. Cathy was doing her second 50 on this new horse, and wanted to take it slower than she would with an experienced horse. Since Hoss likes to have company, I was OK with taking things slower than usual.

After a lovely day, we pulled in to camp as the sun set. I was starting to feel pretty worn out, and was contemplating not entering the next day. Indeed, I fully intended to leave my name out of the box when I went to the ride meeting.

So imagine my surprise when I put a card in. I figured, what the hell, I might feel better in the morning, and putting in the card wasn't a commitment. I'd still have to put my "morning card" in to complete my entry.

After the ride meeting, I staggered back to the camper, finished dinner, checked on the horses, and fell into bed by 8pm. Normally I set up my saddle with water bottles and such the night before, but I was just too done in. I figured if I went, I'd have plenty of time to get it done in the morning.

Day 2

I elected to do an LD with DC. Her last two 50s did not go super well, one ending in a tie up and the other with a punctured hoof. As a result she hasn't had the conditioning she really ought to have. Besides, she really wants to be a top ten horse, and if that's what she wants to do, she's going to need to do some top tens at shorter distances before she does it in 50s. She's already top tenned a couple of 50s, even has a 1st, but I don't feel like I've prepared her adequately for the job. Not to mention, I'm not ready to be riding 50s in the top ten!

Surprisingly, I felt fairly good in the morning. There was a bit of pep talking to get out of bed. I was only riding the LD. I'd have plenty of time to nap after we got back. We weren't doing much. I can do this!

Coffee helped.

DC still needed to be vetted in, so had to hustle to get everything together and hit the trail without being too far behind. And I needed to get her to the vet before the vet crew left for the morning.

I got out of the camper and fed horses first, before starting my breakfast and getting dressed for the day. Although I'd gotten up with enough time, I still had gotten up later than I usually would. So I went for efficiency in preparations. I got the coffee on and fed. Started breakfast and got dressed. Filled my water bottles. Made sure I had the right map and rider card.

I had plenty of time when I got DC and brought her around to saddle up. DC has always been a nervy sort, and this morning was no different. She trembled while I got her ready, flinching at any sudden movement. She wanted to run off at any opportunity. Still, she was able to contain herself enough to get her saddle on and cinched up.

When we arrived at the vet to check in, DC was trembling so badly the vet couldn't get an accurate heart rate on her. Couldn't hear her heart at all. I hadn't been able to get a pulse because of the trembling. The vet and I both felt fairly confident she was fine, in spite of the excitement, and we headed off to the start.

Possibly the most bizarre feature with DC is this super excited trembling business. As soon as I pulled her up alongside the mounting block, she quit. She put her head down and got to work. The trembling absolutely vanished. Now, this is not to say she went forward at exactly the speed I asked, or that she never tried to get her way. No, of course she wanted to bolt from time to time, and being the competitive soul she is, she wanted very much to run until she was way out in front of everyone ever. Despite that, she was controllable, and she put a great deal of energy into keeping herself in check.
Look at those ears, checking to see if anyone is catching up.
The first several miles of the ride went fairly well. Other than wanting to charge ahead whenever she saw horses gaining on her, she was consistent and did a good job. Well, she still hasn't quite gotten the hang of following trail. A single track seems to derail her ability to figure out where she's supposed to go. I had to keep a good direct rein on her on single track lest we trot off into the desert.

I was keeping DC back as much as possible, shooting for a 6mph average and not to get into racing. DC, of course, wanted to race. We had quite a discussion coming out of the Ord Corral and going up the hill, her wishing to run as fast as she could and me telling her she needed to walk. I had finally gotten a few real walk steps out of her just as we came to the photographer. So I asked for a trot.

What I got was a dead runaway.

I had two choices. Fight like hell and get her back to a walk, or ride it out. I chose ride it out. It's always best to pick one's battles, and I decided this was not the hill I wanted to die on. Later when I told the photographer I'd been riding a runaway, he was surprised. From his perspective she appeared to be well under control. Looks can really be deceiving!

We arrived at the vet check in good time. Rather than go to pulse in right away (there was a line of riders preparing to vet and leave, and only Dave there to do both jobs) I took her into the corral for a drink. I dropped her bit and led her down to the water.

While she was having a drink, I gave her a quick look over. She had blood covering her right shoulder. Not long before, while trotting on single track, we had disagreed about which side of a small Joshua tree to go around, and she ended up running into it. The result was a bloody mess. I rinsed it as best I could, realizing for all the blood it was superficial. Then we pulsed in and had our rest time.

On the way back to camp, DC was less enthusiastic. Watching other horses leave without her seemed to take some of the stuffing out of her. So we alternated trotting and walking, and made our way back to camp at a decent pace. We managed to hit a 6mph average.

On our way back to vet out at camp, we snuck past Hoss, who appeared to be having a nap sprawled out on his side in the dirt. I learned later he'd heard us and tried to leap up, only to catch himself on his line and get stuck. Debra Freiberg very kindly helped him, only to have him thank her by whacking her with his head trying to find DC. Yup. Hoss is just like that sometimes.

After vetting out and stripping DC and getting both horses fed, I retreated to the camper for a well earned nap. This LD thing could spoil me. Getting back to camp with so much daylight left and time to relax is really nice.

Day 3

After the ride meeting the prior evening, Cheri Briscoe asked if I was riding Hoss, and allowed as she'd like to buddy up with us for the day. I allowed as Hoss and I would not mind doing so. So in the morning, as I finished saddling and was getting on, Cheri and her younger stallion, Elendil ("L") arrived to join us on the way out of camp.

Not only does Hoss like having company, he is a very calming and steady presence for other horses on trail. Cheri was happy to have Hoss alongside L for the day.

 L turns out to have a bigger trot than Echo did, or Hoss does. Usually, when paired with a horse who's faster than him, Hoss will continue to chug along at his regular rate, confident he'll catch up when the other guy slows down. Today he was not having it. He was absolutely going to keep up with L. So while we'd usually be going at about 7mph, he's pulling along at 9mph. It was a good trot, though, reasonably smooth - as smooth as Hoss gets, anyway - and it didn't feel like he was particularly overworking. In the end I just had to let him keep it up. I knew with Cheri's riding style we'd still end up averaging about 5mph, so ultimately it would amount to the same as usual.

Hanging out at the vet check
At the vet check, we had a nice lunch and good rest. The horses were fine together. Of course, the other guy's food always looks better.

Hole in the Rock
We set out after lunch to finish the second half of the ride. Most of the trek back is fairly level, with a final climb to Halloran Summit, and a gradual 7 mile decline back to camp. We finished nicely, with a just under 10 hour 50.

Day 4

DC was up again, so as Hoss and I came in from Day 3, we picked her up and took her to vet in while Hoss vetted out. It certainly was easier than trying to take her by herself.

In the morning, she was once again fidgety and anxious and trembling. Got her saddled and ready and we made our way to the trail.

DC was a little less difficult to handle this day. It may partly have been due to a smaller entry in the ride, giving her fewer other horses to worry about. I set out to have a faster day, aiming for a 6.25mph average.

 We headed out of camp and kept a nice clip going. DC was happy to get out and feel like she was essentially alone on the trail. She's odd in that she generally prefers to be by herself, but once she feels like she knows another horse she'll happily go along in company as well.

One of the mine camps
I knew we were getting close to the vet check when we started going through the old mine camps, so I started pulling her back some. Our average was also a little high on the GPS, so I just waned to cool her heels a bit. Unfortunately right about then another rider started catching us, and she just wasn't having it. Once she even broke into a gallop to try to leave them behind.

Approaching the vet check, we had to pass through a wash with some gnarly rocks. It was tough to navigate, as the trail is really recut every year, so I was relying on ribbons. With DC worried about another horse catching up, I had to be quick.

We got to the bottom a rock slough, and I could see a ribbon at the top. I was sitting there thinking that couldn't possibly be the way we were meant to go, when DC decided it must be, or I wouldn't be looking up that way!

We got about halfway up before DC got stuck and started to fall. While she was scrambling, I tried to bail off to get out of her way. At some point my knee got bashed into a rock. Before I could get off, DC got her feet back under her, picked me up, and backed out of the slough. We stood there shaking for a minute, and she thought she'd give it another go. I managed to stop her and, having now found the marked route, got her going the direction we were supposed to go.

Once we were up on solid ground, I hopped off to have a look. DC had several small scrapes, and one big wound over her left hind fetlock. She was bleeding but not super profusely. I led her down to the hold, sure she was going to be lame by the time we were done.

It was quite windy, and although I had very carefully taken my crew bag to restock, I'd forgotten to put the horse cooler in it. So all I had to cover DC with was my jacket. I tossed it over her hips to help keep her at least a little warm. She was OK, not really shivering, but still a little amped up after the spill. Her heart rate recovered quickly and we settled in to wait. A crew person who's rider had already been through kindly loaned us a cooler, allowing me to have my jacket back.

While we were resting, I realized my knee had been gouged open on whatever rock I struck it against. It was bleeding quite profusely. Remarkably, my tights had not been damaged. There were no bandages in the trailer, so I had to hope the wound wouldn't bleed enough to fill my boot.

After we'd been in for 20 minutes, I took DC to the vet, sure she'd be lame by this time. Imagine my - and the vet's! - surprise when she trotted sound!

I could have waited for a ride back to camp, rather than continue on. On another day I might have. We had about 10 miles to go to camp. It was cold and windy. DC was trotting sound. I knew the wound on her fetlock was going to give her trouble sooner or later. It was going to be hours waiting in the vet check until we could hitch a ride to camp. I felt it was better for her to go on. We'd just slow way down.

We left the vet check and alternated walking a trotting our way down toward camp. DC preferred to trot than walk, so I allowed her some trotting.

Out of the vet check back toward camp
The rider who'd nearly caught us up before the vet check did finally catch us, and we ended up riding on in together. Our horses seemed to make friends and got along. DC was significantly faster than the other horse, so when we trotted we'd leave them behind. One advantage was DC would slow down if she left the other horse too far behind, allowing me to keep her to a slower rate.

We walked a good deal of the way, until we were passed up by another horse. DC did not take kindly to this, and it was very tough to keep her to a walk. In fact, it was far more likely to to her harm if I didn't let her move out. So, for a couple of miles, we did just that. We slowed back down when we got close to camp, but DC still couldn't do less than a jig. At least she was able to jig without also having me hauling back on the reins. She couldn't quite walk, but I had a loose rein anyway.

When we got back to camp, I stopped at the trailer to strip DC's saddle and grabbed Hoss. There was really little to be gained by leaving him there, yelling about DC while I tried to get her vetted out. By the time we trotted for the vet, DC was indeed very mildly off. We got our completion, and I took her back to the trailer to doctor her up as best I could.

DC's banged up leg
We left for home in the morning. By then DC was once again fairly sound, although the wound was painful to the touch and bled any time she moved. We were home not long after noon and the horses were able to relax in their pens.

The glue-ons I put on DC worked extremely well. They stayed on for the entire ride and it took me some time to pry them off a couple days later.

Monday, January 29, 2018


Every once in a while, I hear from some friend who's taken up distance riding with a non-Arab horse they've been told, "If you want to be serious about endurance, you have to get an Arab."

Now, my first thought is always, what, exactly, does the person making this statement mean by "serious?"

As a rider whose first endurance horse is a mustang, who has now logged over 4,000 miles, I think I take endurance pretty seriously.

Maybe those who make this statement mean a "serious" endurance rider aims for a lot of top ten finishes, or first place, or best condition awards. I can't know. No one has ever made this statement in my presence for me to ask. I suppose it would take quite a bit of courage to suggest to me Hoss and I are not "serious" about endurance.

Hoss, being super serious about endurance. Photo credit Steve Bradley
When one looks at the horses who are consistently finishing and getting firsts, top tens, and BCs, that population is very definitely majority Arabians and half-Arabians. The problem is, that's really not how to look at it when deciding if your particular non-Arabian horse has a decent chance of "making it" as an endurance horse.

If one were to look at the percentages, one will find the vast majority are Arabians. The next most common group is half-Arabians and grade Arabians. It drops off significantly from there. So of course, the highest percentage of wins, BCs, and top tens, go to Arabians. Even the highest percentage of finishes go to Arabians.

For a true sense of how the non-Arabian horse one has chosen is statistically likely to do well in endurance, one must look solely at other horses of the same or similar breeding and how they do in terms of percentages of completions, top tens, first place, and BCs.

But when we get right down to brass tacks, what it means to be a "serious" distance rider is very personal. There are so many different ways to succeed in this sport, to say one can only be "serious" with an Arabian for a partner is ridiculous on its face.

Just completing a few rides is enough to consider oneself "serious."

It's a very personal question. What are your goals as an endurance rider? If you're serious about those goals, congratulations. You're a serious endurance rider.

Fire Mountain, Day 2, 50 miles

Come Sunday morning, both Demon and I were still feeling our first day's ride. So I went ahead and saddled up and got Demon moving, lunging in both directions to get his blood flowing and verify his soundness to start. I had some misgivings about going, to which I probably should have listened. My left hip was giving me fits and I could barely walk fast enough to keep up with Demon without limping.

Rather than use the previous day's vetting out as the start vetting for horses doing both days, we had to present to the vets for a trot-out before being confirmed to start. I waited until fairly late to do this, as I wanted to get it done and hit the trail without hanging around for an extended period.

The trails for day 2 are the same as day 1, just ridden in the opposite direction. Demon has never been a super fan of repeat trail, but he's learned to appreciate it at least a little bit. Doing it the other direction is nice, as it still feels like new trail even though you've already seen it.

Once more over the rise, from a slightly different angle
We headed out and had a good calm start. It took us longer to finish the first loop the second day than the first. I just had to keep slowing him down because of that stupid hip.

We came into the first vet check about 10am. Once again he vetted with flying colors. I gave him plenty to eat and made sure he drank well during the hold before we headed back out for the second loop.

Tucked in, dunking his hay for combination eating and drinking.
Given the previous day's poor gut sounds, I allowed Demon to eat more at the water stops this time. And we were going even slower than we had on the first loop. That hip is really not my friend these days. We ended up coming in for the second vet check about 1:30pm, an hour later than the day before.

Coming up the rise before dropping back to camp on Loop 2
This is where that FEI thing starts to bug me.

On day one, as I was waiting to vet, another AERC rider was going around and around with the vets about getting a pulse and going to the trailer before vetting in later. It took some doing and she eventually got her way.

In light of the previous day's gut sounds issue, I wanted to pulse in and take Demon to the trailer and vet in after he'd had a chance to eat for half an hour or so. So I walked him in to the pulse box and announced my intention.

And it got circular.

The vet told me, well, vets are taking pulses, so we'll just vet you at the same time. Here, let me help you with your saddle.

I said no, I want to go to my trailer and vet later. AERC rules allow that.

Once again, vets are taking pulses, so we'll vet you at the same time.

I don't want to do that.

This goes on for several minutes before I stalk back out with Demon to unsaddle him, having the vet shouting they'll help with the saddle. My husband was outside the arena. I'd rather have him help, thanks.

So I come back in and go through the process. Since I'd been letting him eat Demon had good gut sounds. The vet then said he was a little off, and I swear I heard left front. I was told to bring him back, tack off, about 10 minutes before our hold time was over. So as I led him off, I got him trotting beside me enough to see how he was, and he was sound. I didn't bother to look at his hind. I felt good about his soundness.

At the appointed time, I brought him back, and the vet declared his lameness was worse. I was flabbergasted. I'd been watching him and because I heard left front, was only paying attention to his front end.

Turned out either there had been a misstatement earlier, or it had been his left hind all along.

Someone else trotted him for me, and the vet proceeded to explain how to see hind end lameness. I had to cut the vet off. I've been shoeing horses for 20 years, I can spot a lameness at a distance in 3 steps, I know what I'm looking at, and after the earlier incident with the pulsing thing I was already short tempered.

So we were pulled. At which point the vet proceeded to throw a pity party. I really did not need the "gee that sucks!" statements and just walked away at this point.

The worst part is, this vet is a person I really like. I admire and respect this person. To feel I was being manipulated by this person was really, really unpleasant. And the pity party bit was downright insulting.

It was still early enough in the day to get home at a reasonable hour, so we decided to pack it up and go home. Demon had plenty of time to eat and drink before we were ready to load him up. He was obviously lame at this point but bearing weight fine while standing and walking so I felt fine about taking him home. Besides, I knew he'd rest better in his pen next to his buddy than tied to the trailer for another night.

We arrived home about 10pm, got Demon in his pen and gave him a bran mash with bute which he did not eat. I took him out Monday morning expecting to figure out exactly why he was lame only to have him trot alongside the golf cart perfectly sound. No heat, no swelling, nothing to give an indication of why he was so off on Sunday. I pulled his shoes since he's done competing until I recover from hip replacement surgery in March. Not so much as a nick to suggest he had been footsore. I am doomed to never know exactly why Demon was lame that day. At least he shook it off quickly. I'm sure whatever it was, my hip not cooperating set it up.

Fire Mountain, Day 1, 50 Miles

I harbor a certain degree of nostalgia for the Fire Mountain ride.

Way back in 2004, it was the very first ride I attended. My daughter and I conditioned up our horses. With my husband, we packed up a tent and camping gear, the horses, and ourselves in my shoeing pickup and a two horse straight load trailer and off we went. It was so cold, we ended up dragging in every extra horse blanket we could find. None of us slept well.

And we had a really excellent time.

So I like to head back when my schedule allows. I made it in 2016, and it was Demon's first 50.

When it became clear I would be able to attend this year, I decided I'd take Demon and get a few more miles on him.

I'm trying very hard to get 50s on all three horses before I have my hip replacement in mid-March. It's going 1/3 well. Demon has finished 200 miles, within 6 weeks. He was burning it up. But Hoss came down sick at Death Valley, and DC had punctured a foot at Git R Done and just was not quite ready to do a ride yet. So Demon has endurance miles, Hoss and DC are still hoping to get theirs in.

Fire Mountain this year was a co-sanctioned FEI event. Git R Done in October was one as well. Every time I attend a ride co-sanctioned with FEI, I remember why I generally dislike them. They tend to be highly regimented and it behooves even AERC only riders to operate more by FEI rules than by AERC rules.

Taking Demon this year felt good. I like the trails and the people are pretty nice. Camp is very nice, too, with plenty of water easy to get to. It's what I like to call a local ride - defined as any ride within the state of California and less than 300 miles from home.

We arrived in camp fairly late on Friday, although we still had enough daylight to set up camp, pick up my packet, and get vetted in. It's quite amusing watching the volunteers numbering horses realize there is no color of Magic Marker which will show up effectively on a black horse. Demon is not super accustomed to this practice, having accomplished much of his endurance career so far at Duck rides where numbering just isn't done, but he handled it well. He does very much love feeling like the center of attention.

In the morning, I took my time about saddling up. I wanted to let the hot-shoes leave and be well gone before Demon and I headed out. With FEI riders there as well, I knew there would be a larger than usual population of riders who were going fast. I wanted Demon to have a relatively slow day and not to get hung up with the leaders.

Watching the other horses leaving, wondering why he can't go with them!
We finally headed out. Demon was very good and solid for me, despite announcing his presence
every now and again. I did slow him down quite a bit for the deeper sand, as we don't have much of that at home. Still we managed the first loop a little faster than I had hoped for. We got back to camp at right about 9:30am.

Coming over the rise headed back toward camp
Got to the vet area, pulsed and vetted fine, went to the trailer for rest and food. This was a 30 minute hold. I had started a timer on my watch when his pulse was announced so I wouldn't miss my time. I have a habit of doing that.

When our time was up, I got Demon's bit back in his mouth and we headed back out for loop two.

I thought I had understood the manager to say the second loop was 20 miles, so imagine my surprise when we were coming back into camp at 12:30. I later realized she'd meant the third loop was 20 miles.

The hour hold vet check required tack off, so I had my husband meet me before the gate and help me with Demon's saddle. We ride with a very chunky Tucker western saddle, complete with pommel bags and water bottles. It's a PITA to get on and off regularly and I definitely did not want to set it in the dirt if I didn't have to. While we were unsaddling him Demon was hoovering up all the hay within reach.

The vet who examined Demon commented his gut sounds were low. I have not yet taken Demon to a ride where we vetted before allowing him to rest and eat, so I really couldn't say anyone had said he had low gut sounds in the past. Still, he would have been eating if I hadn't dragged him off the hay, so I was unconcerned about low gut sounds. The vet told me to bring him back just before we left for a recheck and kept our card.

*Sigh.* Yep, sometimes these FEI vets are a little .... odd. It's hard to imagine many AERC vets doing the same, and had we been doing it our normal way we wouldn't even have vetted at that point anyway.

So I took Demon to the trailer. My husband had hauled the saddle to the trailer so we didn't have to deal with it.

At the trailer Demon ate like ... well ... a demon. I gave him a serving of Outlast as a precaution, although I doubt it was necessary. Once we were coming down to the wire on our hold time I put his saddle back on and took him back to the vets, where he was immediately declared to be normal and fit to continue.

Headed up away from camp
The last 20 mile loop is a long uphill pull before coming back down to camp. Demon wanted to catch up to horses in front of us, but I wanted him to go more carefully so I kept him back until we got to more even ground. We had a couple of good trot and canter sessions, and had a really good time trotting down the hill back toward camp. We finished at just about 4:30pm, with plenty of light to spare. We were both tired and happy.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Purina Feed Greatness Challenge, Week 4

Time once again for observations and musings on the Purina Outlast product and what we're seeing in the horses we're feeding it to.

Since it has been four weeks, I took out the weight tape and measured all 3 of the endurance horses again. I have to say, I was surprised -- floored may be more appropriate -- by the result.

Hoss has gained right around 20-25 pounds on the tape. I wasn't super surprised by this, as when I girthed him up today, he'd lost yet another notch on his girth. So I was expecting him to show a gain.

Yes, Hoss got a much needed clipping, and he's sticking his tongue out at the camera

Demon has also gained about 20-25 pounds. This really did surprise me. Yesterday, I noticed I could see ribs on him at the right angle. Since he's always lost some weight after an endurance ride, this seemed about normal. So when the weight tape brought him in at 875, I was truly surprised. I did feel along his ribs, and they're not super easy to feel. I don't know why I could see them yesterday.

Doing his very best to look good for his picture

DC gained about 10 pounds. Considering the tape already at her at 850 before, I should hope she hadn't gained much. Being also the smallest, she should have the smallest total gains. Still, I was surprised to see she had changed at all.

DC is by Demon. It's astonishing how similar they look

It should be noted all the original weights were taken about a week after we started the challenge, so these gains all occurred in 3 weeks. I wouldn't change any of them in terms of where they are on the body condition score. Hoss is a 6, DC is a 6, Demon is a 5.

I did finally get an email from Purina. Here's the meat of what they ask:

Have you seen these changes in your horse?
  • Difference in hair coat condition
  • Boost in overall bloom and health
  • Continued optimal intake due to palatability

OK, let's take these in order.

"Difference in hair coat condition"

Honestly, not really. They look and feel about the same to me, other than Hoss has started blowing coat. Beth, however, swears they all look better, especially DC. I just don't see it. Besides, with it being shedding season, they're growing new coat so of course it's different. Hard to pin that one on feed.

"Boost in overall bloom and health"

OK, wait, what?

What does this even mean?

This "change" is so vague as to be meaningless. I don't even know what "bloom" means when speaking of horses. They don't have flowers. As to health, well, they're healthy as ever.

"Continued optimal intake due to palatability"

Honestly, why they included this as a "change" escapes me. Yep, they're eating it. Hasn't changed since day 1. I suspect this is included to round out the magic 3 we humans tend to like so much.

All of the expected changes are vague and invite subjectivity in observation. How much change in any of these criteria is seen is purely in the eye of the beholder. Witness the difference in how Beth and I perceive the coat conditions of my horses. It puts ideas into one's head, and encourages seeing change even if it isn't really there.

Amira, the unhandled mare, continues to improve. Now I'm noticing she's level-headed all the time, rather than in the immediate time after a feeding. She's still pretty calm and relaxed in the mornings when it's been over 12 hours since she had a serving of the Outlast. So it's either showing better effects over the long term, or because it allows her to relax she's learning to stay that way in the absence of the product's effects. She's even sort of approaching me, the big meanie who forced her into a trailer and drove her 2,000 miles. Now, the only way we'd know for sure if the Outlast is responsible for these changes would be to take her off it and see what happens. Not likely to happen, especially with a horse who needs so much work and help.

We're continuing to see changes. At this point, we'll very likely continue to keep Outlast in the barn. It does seem to be helping, even if I find the vagueness of their expected changes frustrating.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Death Valley Encounter, Day 4: Nadeau Springs

Hoss now doing quite well, I felt it was safe to leave him alone for several hours while Demon and I rode. The vet check was back in camp, and Cheri Briscoe was parked next to us, so I knew he'd be well looked after.

Since it was New Year's Eve, I had gotten party hats and head bands. I taped a party hat on Demon's crown piece and a head band on my helmet. We were ready to party!

Not feeling super amused by the party hat
This day is pretty flat through the desert without the extreme climbs and drops of the previous days. It's not as picturesque as previous days, but there are some spectacular views of the valley as the trail rises up away from camp. It's also a little repetitive, as the second loop is the same as the first loop with some bits cut out.

The first loop went quite well. I had to pull Demon down to a walk for some of the uphill stuff. Between wanting to make sure I had enough horse for the afternoon and my hip starting to burn, I made quite a few gait changes.

Heading up the hill from camp
The first loop took us close to the Nadeau Spring, where we had to get a question. In this case, "What was the color of Emperor Hirohito's horse?" I have no idea. I didn't even know the guy had a horse. But that's not the point of the question, more that you know it and it proves you didn't cut trail.

Coming back toward camp goes through a sandy wash. It isn't as deep as some other places, but it was easier to have Demon walk the whole thing than go back and forth between walking and trotting at irregular intervals. It's pretty there, anyway, so going slow and appreciating it is nice.

Looking toward Great Falls
We made it back to the Stockwell Mine Road, which heads back to camp. Except we had to go the other way and loop back a couple of miles on other roads. When we got to the turn, Demon was chugging along so fast I missed the notes on the pie plate. I got him pulled up and took out my GPS to find we were off track. He was mildly annoyed when I made him head the other way, away from camp, but trotted along amiably enough.

We finished the first loop and had our hour hold. I looked at my watch when we arrived and promptly forgot what time it was, which I didn't realize until I was sitting in my camper, looking at my watch, and contemplating if it was time to leave again or not. Was it 11:15 when we came in, or 11:25? Maybe 11:05? I don't know. Regardless, we didn't leave camp until 12:30, by the time we passed the vet inspection and got back on trail.

Demon was feeling particularly good. Maybe the extra time in camp did him good. He kept up a good pace, not really wanting to slow down. I did make him walk some of the longer uphill, just on general principles.

He was going so well, I didn't want to interrupt his groove. So rather than slow him down when my hip started hurting, I took a two point position, grabbed mane, and hung on. We did slow for particularly rocky sections, and when going through the wash the second time around.

Heading back toward camp
The only thing worse than getting super close to camp then turning away is doing so twice. We got back to the Stockwell Mine Road, and Demon was utterly convinced this time we should be going straight back to camp from there. It took some convincing on my part to get him going. It helped two horses were not far ahead of us, so he decided I couldn't be entirely stupid if they were going that way, too. Still, this time he was much more annoyed than the first time around. Once we reached the point of heading generally back toward camp, though, he eagerly picked up the trot, and we finished the second loop in just about 3 hours, not counting our extra time in camp.

Happy New Year, Ya'll

Death Valley Encounter, Day 3: Tower Trail

Due to Hoss's colic episode, I didn't expect to ride at all on Day 3. I slept through the start for the 25s and 50s anyway. So, at 8:30am, when Hoss was looking particularly good, I made a spur of the moment decision to take Demon on the fun ride.

We saddled up and made sure Hoss had food and water before we left. By this time I was comfortable leaving a full meal in front of Hoss while I was gone for a couple of hours. I took Demon up to the check in area and let Annie know we were going to join the fun ride.

I was pretty sore from riding Hoss the previous day. He'd worked me pretty hard, despite obviously ending up being sick. So I really felt it when I got on Demon.

Demon was feeling very good and enthusiastic about getting out. So we headed off down the trail at a good trot clip.

The trail was fairly fast and flat, and since it was an 11 mile ride, I felt good about letting Demon open up and go as fast as he wanted. We had a couple of very good gallop stretches. We rode a portion of the Loop 2 trail for the 50 milers which goes up to Great Falls.

Great Falls is a really neat geological phenomenon. Sometimes there's water, sometimes there's not. It makes no difference what time of year it is or what the weather has been like. Water is allowed in or stopped by a crack in the rock way in the back. There were lots of burro tracks up to the falls. They'd been going back there regularly to check for water. It must be there reliably enough for them to be traveling there as often as their tracks make it appear.

Coming back down from the Falls the trail gets super sandy and deep. I had to make Demon walk through this. Most of our trail at home is hard and rocky, so he does not get work in deep sand. Although we live in San Diego County, the beach is an impractical distance away to go condition in sand.

Once we were out of the sand, we picked up a nice trot for the last few miles back into camp. This was mostly fairly hard road with good footing, slightly downhill. We did intervals of walking and trotting until we got back to camp.

Back at camp we vetted in for the 50 on day 4, and I brought Hoss up for the vet to check him over. The vet declared vet cured of his colic episode. By this point Hoss was convinced I was starving him and ate up every bite of everything I offered him.

Sadly, I neglected to grab my phone out of the truck before Demon and I left, so no pictures.

Death Valley Encounter, Day 2: Slate Range Ridgeline

It was definitely Hoss's turn for bad luck.

We saddled up and Hoss was doing very nicely, trotting out at a good (for him) pace. We trotted most of the first 8 miles or so, which were relatively flat, going over substantially the same trail Demon and I had come back on after crossing the highway on Day 1. Once we got to the highway, we stopped for a drink and headed up to the Slate Range Ridgeline trail.

This was where I had briefly gone wrong with Demon the previous day. It's a lovely trail. The Duck was telling us the previous night it was originally built by motorcyclists, who now cannot use it (I suspect a subsequent wilderness designation). While working on permits, several BLM persons had to be taken out to see this trail. The biologist said it was created by burros, so would be fine for horses. The Duck asked if it was common for burros to stack rocks, and the biologist assured him yes, they do indeed do that. I suspect she was pulling his leg a bit. Biologists aren't known for being good at humor.

Totally no humans involved, burro rock stacking.
The ridgeline trail is pretty slow going, so we took our time and enjoyed the view along the trail. I can't hike so Hoss had to pack me the whole way. Again, I was a little nervous about falling off the trail, but Hoss being Hoss, he never put a foot wrong, and took any slipping in stride. I may have been nervous, but he carried on in his usual phlegmatic manner.

Looking down into the Panamint Valley
Once off the ridgeline, we were back on jeep tracks, but it was still pretty up and down. So it was mostly slow going.

When we got to the next water stop, Hoss was breathing pretty hard. Harder than I would expect for having walked as much as we had.

One last look at Panamint Valley before going off the trail
The rest of the trail back to camp, through a wash and down a canyon, was mostly downhill and sandy so I kept him mostly to a walk, though he did do a bit a pacing. At the next water, he was really breathing hard, and his heart rate felt fast. We were a few miles from camp. At this point I was thinking I was going to pull him.

Back at camp, Cheri Briscoe checked his pulse. He was at 72. His pulse hung at 72 for 5 minutes. At that point I said, nope, we quit. I took him back to the trailer and untacked him before bringing him back to the vet. The vet cleared him to continue, but we called it a day.

It was just as well we did.

After giving both horses lunches and hay to munch on, and verifying they were eating as normal, I ate my lunch and laid down for a nap. About 2 hours after we'd come in, someone banged on the camper door. I rolled out of bed and opened the door to a slightly alarming although not entirely unusual sight.

Hoss was laid out on his side, his head held up slightly by his lead rope tied to the trailer.

This is not super unusual for Hoss. He is well known for using his lead rope as a pillow and will lay out on his side to sleep for much longer than most horses are inclined to do. It is unusual for him to groan while doing it, and to lay like that so soon after a ride.

I untied him from the trailer and got him to his feet. He seemed relatively normal, yawning more like he had been awakened from an excellent nap than anything. Still, better to take him to the vet for nothing than have something get worse later.

Cheri and I were speculating Hoss had indeed been napping when I noted the vet had been listening to a particular section of his gut for a very long time. Turned out he was extra quiet right there. I said if his heart rate was in the 50s, it was a good bet he was colicking. She checked his heart rate and actually counted. 56. So Hoss got a dose of  Banamine.

I took him back to the trailer and gave him a sloppy bran mash. He polished that off and slept with his head propped against the side of the trailer for several hours. I got up every 2 hours or so to check on him and dole out small amounts of hay. It wasn't until sometime between 2am and 4am he finally pooped. Until then, I barely slept, every sound causing my heart rate to spike. I hadn't even felt him go down the first time, so I was on hyper alert for any motion or sound. After he finally did poop, I gave Demon his regular breakfast and Hoss a little bit more hay, then slept for a couple of hours. Once he'd started pooping, Hoss did not see fit to stop again, and was declared cured about noon the next day.

My strong suspicion is a combination of the heat and not getting clipped and not being as fit as he should be got to him. Usually I would have "hammered" him in the weeks right before the ride, but I had family problems going on which I had to take care of and just couldn't get it done.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Death Valley Encounter, Day 1: Panamint Valley

I have to start with a bit about the trip to the ride itself.

Demon and Hoss started fussing under the divider with each other almost immediately upon loading. I tied them both, not short, but enough to prevent any real reaching under the divider. The trip was uneventful until we stopped at the Walmart in Adelanto. I was sitting in the cab clearing my notifications when the trailer started rocking. Demon has in the past been known to start pawing mindlessly, and I assumed it was him acting up when I hollered and went back to see what was up. I climbed up on the side of the trailer and looked in at Demon, who gave me a wide-eyed look and tilted his head toward Hoss.

At this point I noticed Hoss's hind leg did not look quite right. There is no way it should be at quite that angle. In a bit of a panic, I ran back and opened the gate.

Hoss was sitting on his butt like a dog, held up by his lead rope just enough to prevent him from tucking his front legs. He immediately tried to exit the trailer, but his head was still tied. His foot hit the spigot on the 55 gallon drum, opening it and creating a flood of water in the midst of his predicament. I yelled at him to whoa, and ran around to untie him. Once he was freed, I told him to come on out and he was able to get out of the trailer and gain his feet with little trouble.

Letting my heart rate come down, I started asking Hoss to move about a little to make sure he was OK before re-loading him and heading on up the road. I was looking Hoss over when a car stopped and the most exuberantly excited young man (I'd say mid-20s at most) asked in the most breathlessly awed voice if he could have a picture with Hoss. I can honestly say I have never seen someone in this particular age group so enthused to meet a horse. Hoss was, of course, an incredible ambassador for his species and stood quietly for petting and to have his picture taken. I really wish I'd gotten a picture of those two young men with Hoss. It was truly enchanting and did quite a bit to distract me from the distressing situation we had so recently found ourselves in.

Once picture time was over I made a thorough inspection of Hoss. He has a fresh wound on the very tip of his ear, either bitten by Demon or caught in something in the trailer, and multiple nip marks from Demon trying to get him back on his feet. My best guess is either Demon got hold of Hoss's ear, or he got it stuck, and set back, causing him to fall. I doubt having him loose would have allowed him to get to his feet on his own. There simply was not enough space. His effort to get out when I opened the gate makes it clear to me his only chance to get up was to be afforded more space. He's fallen in the trailer enough times to support this conclusion.

We arrived at camp and found a spot to park. The night was uneventful, other than arranging with Lora Wereb, the "official" XP massage therapist, to give Hoss a massage and checking over while Demon and I were riding on day 1.

The morning was clear and cold, yet far warmer than normal for this ride. Demon was amped and ready to get his endurance ride on. We saddled up and left about 10 minutes after start time to let the hot-shoes get well down the trail. Demon was super happy to find himself once again on the endurance trail after a long hiatus due to (human) illness, surgeries, vehicle failures, and long distance trips.

In years past, this trail was ridden in a "clockwise" fashion. This year it was done widdershins. This meant coming to the ETI trail early in the day. The ETI is a single track trail which drops down into the Panamint Valley. It is a beautiful and technical trail, and there is some advantage to going down before lunch rather than up it after lunch. Coming to it with a fresh horse is nice in that the horse has the energy to deal with the rocks and dips. On the other hand, there's something to be said for going up it with a horse who's had some of the stuffing taken out of him already.

Demon did very well, but my fall with DC at Virgin Outlaw in 2016 has left me with a slight fear of drop-offs, especially with an enthusiastic horse. Looking back I can say he never did anything remotely dangerous, kept himself on the trail straight and true, and was careful if fast. In the moment all I could imagine was toppling off the edge in a moment of imagined equine inattention.

Looking down into the Panamint Valley
Once we made the valley floor we set off at a good clip for the vet check. There were several areas we had to slow for "moguls" in the jeep road. I had been forewarned of this and advised to simply go to the edges or off into the desert for better travel. Demon, however, is a stickler for the rules generally, and did not think going off trail was a good idea. So I would simply ask for a walk through those areas and we'd trot when it flattened out. Besides, my hip has gotten worse, and it starts hurting enough to change gaits anyway. It worked out for both of us.

The vet check was perhaps a mile from a mine. Many vehicles were traveling around, and Demon found them quite fascinating. He ate a bran mash, but otherwise spent his time watching the vehicles traveling to and fro.

Those mine vehicles, they are super interesting!
After the lunch hold, we took back to the trail. We did intervals of walking and trotting to the Nadeau Toll Road, originally built by hand by the earliest settlers of the area. It is truly a feat of human engineering and grit, when one recognizes just how much work had to have gone into carving the road from the hillside.

Nadeau Toll Road
At the top of the Toll Road, where it intersects with the Wildrose Highway, we were meant to cross the highway. I knew this. While Demon was having a drink I was thinking we would be crossing the highway. But when he finished, I noticed ribbons up the hill. There were no ribbons toward the highway. I thought, well, perhaps we're supposed to go up the hill then cross the highway. So up the hill we went. And followed the single track. And I forgot we were supposed to cross the highway.

I think we made maybe half a mile before I thought to look at my GPS and realized we were off track. We turned back and found yes, we were meant to cross the highway right there. We got back on trail and headed down toward camp.

Most of the rest of the trail was slightly downhill or flat, so we made fairly good time heading back. Demon had started to flag on the Toll Road but got a second wind and trotted most of the last bit as strong as he'd started.

We finished in about 8.5 hours, an admirable finish. The new girth I'd gotten from Teddy Lancaster of Running Bear worked very well, despite having been tested a whole three quarters of a mile before we headed to the ride. Demon was super pleased with himself when we were done, and tucked right into his dinner. One day down.

Purina Feed Greatness Challenge Week 3

This week, I had Demon and Hoss at the Death Valley endurance ride. Seemed like a good time to see if I noticed any particular changes in either of them.

I fed both horses a bran mash with a serving of Outlast the morning we left (12/27). They were fine in the trailer, other than fussing at one another more than usual in the first part of the trip. Hoss was recently moved into a pen next to another horse, who likes to pick fights. Well, Hoss managed to get the better of his neighbor, badly enough said neighbor was laid up for 3 days. So now, when Demon got to snuffling under the divider, Hoss thought he was a badass and fought back. I'm not positive a tussle is what resulted in Hoss's ear injury and fall in the trailer, but it seems a likely scenario. At least after that point it seemed the two were staying on their own sides of the divider.

Demon rode the 50 on day 1. He did a good and consistent job. I gave him a serving of Outlast at the lunch check and one again when we got back to camp. He also did the fun ride on day 3. That day I gave bran mashes with Outlast and gave him his regular serving with his lunch. On day 4 he did another 50, again going fine. I can't say as he performed any better than he usually does.

Demon at the vet check on day 1, fascinated by the vehicles at the mine.

Hoss attempted the 50 on day 2. I was very concerned with how he was doing during the first 30 miles. He seemed to be panting and having a higher heart rate than he should through the second half of the first loop. He was perfectly cheerful and wanted to go. Indeed, I spent a lot of time holding him back due to concern about his condition. I had given him Outlast in a bran mash before we left. I did pull him at the vet check and about 2 hours later was alerted he appeared to be in distress. It turned out he was indeed suffering a mild colic, which 10cc of Banamine cleared up overnight. Again, I can't say he was doing any better than usual.

What I can say was different was the quality and  frequency of both horses' manure. They were both producing more well-formed manure balls and at a higher frequency. Demon was less likely to slow down or stop to poop. They were much easier than usual to clean up after. In this regard, I can say they were doing better.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch....

Beth has been observing changes in my 3 endurance horses and in the 2 she started on the Outlast before I left for the ride. She noted DC is eating better, even when fed far from the other horses, and isn't charging around her pen when another horse is taken out. Demon seems more cheerful and animated. Hoss is more likely to interact with people other than me. These are all changes I had been watching and not commenting on, due to worries about the placebo effect. Even though I don't really expect changes, and am doing my best to stay objective, of course I want my horses to be happier, so I know it would be easy to think some change I think I see is due to the Outlast. I've been waiting to see if the changes seem to stick.

Due to the changes she's been seeing, Beth decided to start the 4 other horses on Outlast.

In particular, Amira seems to have benefited greatly. I picked up this mare from Iowa in October. It's fair to say she has had a very traumatic history with trailers and was otherwise essentially unhandled. Even when I picked her up we had quite a hard time. It took 5 hours and a rather large dose of sedative to get her on the trailer. Before the sedation, she had at one point fallen out of the trailer we'd gotten her half on, struck her head on a post, and laid on her chest for a solid 15 minutes groaning. I can't blame the horse for being a bit alarmed by people after all she's been through just with trailers. We haven't been able to so much as touch this mare since we got her home. I made an attempt at trimming her feet when she was sedated for teeth and almost got my head removed for my trouble.

Amira before Outlast. Looking for an escape.

Before I left for Death Valley, I cornered Amira and got a halter and drag rope on her. Even with this, she was difficult to handle and certainly untouchable beyond her withers. Beth started giving her the Outlast, and the difference is night and day. She was even able to brush Amira down to her hocks, an action likely to result in a kicking fit before. Amira is even different before the Outlast and after, enough to make the product look like magic. I've decided to start giving it to her 3 times per day. Since she lives next to the barn this is easy to accomplish.

After Outlast. Soft eye and relaxed body language.
Even the three other mares, Obsession, Rez, and Sere, seem to be calmer and more at peace since beginning a daily dose of Outlast.

One of the boarded horses, Jack, is reportedly doing quite well too. He's more focused and less suspicious than he was before.

I won't say I'm a believer, but I will say it looks promising, at least for more than half the horses here.