Tuesday, September 11, 2018

2018 Grand Canyon XP Ride I

Some set-up is called for in this post, as a great deal happened in the months between Montana de Oro and Grand Canyon.

As alluded to in the previous post, I underwent surgery on June 27. Early in the year, I had seen my orthopedic surgeon and, having decided injections were not effective, elected to go ahead with a second hip replacement. I had hoped to have the surgery by mid-March, to be recovered in time for the births of foals and to continue my ride year. This was not to be. The hospital was under renovation, and operating rooms were short. In the meantime, I continued with life as much as possible with a deteriorating hip.

I finally got the call to schedule the surgery, plus the pre-op class and final appointment with the surgeon. After jumping through all the hoops, I met with the surgeon, who told me he wanted to do arthroscopic surgery and repair my hip. This was fantastic news, while at the same time being quite frustrating. I had gone through the physical and dental clearance and had the class, all of which could have been skipped had he offered arthroscopic surgery in the first place. While pleased, I could also have cheerfully choked the life out of him.

Under the knife I went. It’s a one-day surgery, so once I recovered from anesthesia, I got to go home. I opted to rent a Game Ready ice and compression device, as I can’t take much in the way of anti-inflammatories, and the one I can take is not allowed post-surgery.

When I did wake up, I realized immediately the surgery had worked. By the time I got home, I felt really good. I never took one narcotic pain killer. I used the Game Ready mostly as a precaution against inflammation. I spent the 3 weeks of limited weight bearing pretending to be lame.

Once I was off weight bearing precautions, I started riding Hoss in the arena bareback. I started out at 3 times per week and felt very good about my balance before I started riding in our saddle again. The first time I put the saddle on, we went to the arena and really had a poor ride. I’d gotten so far as cantering a little bareback, so I was surprised when he was being difficult about it under saddle. 

When I took the saddle off, I quickly realized why.

Two giant dry spots, one on each side, demonstrated his saddle no longer fit.

This is the saddle we’ve done 7 years and 3,000 competition miles in. To say I was surprised is an understatement.

The next time we rode, I threw that saddle on him without a pad, and it was quite clear it’s not a fit. Fortunately, Demon’s Tucker western saddle is a good fit. So, with 3 weeks to go before a multi-day ride, I have a horse with a new-to-him saddle.

I was noodling on Facebook one day and saw a post from a person looking for a catch ride for Grand Canyon. I thought, well, why not, DC can be ready for LDs in plenty of time, and it’d be nice to get her some extra miles. Sarah Walton and I arranged to meet and for her to ride DC the first 3 days of the ride.

In the remaining 3 weeks, I needed to get some miles on Hoss to have him ready to do much of anything. So of course, when I brought him out for a ride on August 7th, he had blown a huge abscess out of the outside heel of his right hind foot. It was sore on palpation, and it bled if I looked at it too hard. I removed the shoe, trimmed out what I could to relieve the abscess, and put him in a small pen to start recovering. It would be another 2 days before I could put the shoe back on, and another week before the spot wasn’t sore to the touch. With just a week to go before the ride, he was going to be just as fit as he was and no fitter for the ride.

I got everything ready and packed to go. We left on the 23rd, the ride starting on the 26th. I wanted to arrive in camp by early afternoon on the 24th. Knowing the AC in the truck is not reliable, I wanted to cross the desert in the late afternoon or early morning.

Before loading up, I glued DC’s boots on. It was her very last set of Gloves. Never having had a problem with glue – and having attended more Vettec clinics than I can count – I was unconcerned about a lack of back-ups.

We were on the road by 6pm and had an uneventful drive to camp and arrived by midday Friday.

While unloading and setting up the horses, I noticed an unusual number of yellow jackets. The little bastards have always been a problem at this ride, just not in camp, historically. When I retired to the camper, I made sure to close the screen door in an effort to reduce the odds of one coming in.

Within two hours, I had killed three of the bastards. I’m very allergic to them. I’ve been under immunotherapy for 6 years and my odds of a serious reaction are quite low, but I’m not exactly eager to test the effectiveness of the treatment. Eventually I had to go ahead and close the door to keep them out.

Sarah arrived on Saturday afternoon. After sitting and chatting and getting acquainted, we headed out for a little pre-ride. We were having such a good time talking and riding, by the time I thought to look at my watch we’d been out for an hour and a half! Ultimately we were riding for over 3 hours. We got back to camp, untacked, attended the ride meeting, and vetted our horses in.

By morning, it was clear I was not in any shape to be riding. Besides, during our pre-ride, Hoss had looked not quite right on the opposite front from his abscessed hoof, and his heart rate half an hour after we’d come back was higher than I would expect.

While I was eating my breakfast, I glanced out the camper window and noticed DC’s left hind foot did not look right. She’d lost her boot in the night! I’d brought glue and spare glue on boots, but I didn’t have glue tips. I was able to get one from Dave Rabe and glued a spare boot on.

I sent Sarah and DC down the trail, having walked with them until we were out of camp and they were allowed to trot. I knew DC would never be able to walk through camp, and I also wanted to be sure Sarah was safely on.

Walking back into camp, I stopped to talk with another person. We were standing there chatting amiably when a yellowjacket started hovering about. By this point I was already getting a little paranoid about the things. It seemed whenever I stopped one would be nearby. No one else seemed to be having this problem. Just me. It was like they were hunting me. Me specifically. Like they could sense I was allergic to them and they were on a mission to get me. Well, while I’m standing there chatting, and thought that asshole had left, I felt a sudden sharp pain in my right ring finger. Sure enough, I was stung. I swear the little bastard was laughing maniacally as it flew away.

It was clear I wasn’t having a serious reaction immediately, but damn it hurt anyway. I headed back to camp and took a Benadryl and stayed in the camper while I made sure I wasn’t going to react seriously. It was clear within an hour or two I was going to be OK. I had numbness and tingling in the tips of my right ring and pinky fingers, itching on the back of my hand, and cramping in my forearm muscles, but nothing more than that. It mostly passed within two hours.

Hoss hanging out in camp
Before being stung, I had volunteered to help out, so I dragged my chair over to man the finish line. As I’m sitting there, watching horses come in, I overhear someone talking about finding a glue on boot. I’m thinking, uh-oh. The person brought the boot to where I was sitting and sure enough. It was one of DC’s front boots. At this point I’m thinking, well, she’s coming back on the trailer. There’s no way she can manage this with a boot off. After another little while, another rider shows up and hands me DC’s other front boot. Definitely, she’s coming back in the trailer.

Then, lo and behold, here comes my little mare, tail and ears high, looking just as pleased with herself as she can be. They got into camp and Sarah hopped down. I took DC’s heartrate and she was at a cool 52. Didn’t hardly look like she’d done anything at all. When Sarah trotted her out, she looked great.

Later I examined her feet and discovered they did not look appreciably different than they had when I’d glued her boots on.

Sarah explained she had been so worried about the hind boots she hadn’t really checked the fronts much. Besides, when she did try to see the fronts, DC decided she meant “go faster” and would start cantering. It wasn’t until they arrived in the vet check that the loss was noticed. Sarah asked for advice and after being given 3 affirmatives to continue, she did so, just staying at a slower pace. She hooked up with another rider and they came in together at the end. Had Sarah known the boots had come off within the first 5 miles of the ride, she would never have continued on. It’s a good thing she didn’t know.

Now I had a horse with no front hoof protection. I asked around a bit and came up empty on getting her another pair of boots to borrow. We decided instead to do the intro ride. I was still thinking I shouldn’t go super far, and worried a bit about the still exposed part of Hoss’s back foot.

During the night, I decided to try taping DC’s front boots on. In the morning, I did just that, not expecting them to stay on through even a casual ride. But, it was worth a try.

DC and Sarah

We followed the route the Duck described, and had some nice long trot sessions. Those boots stayed put. I still didn’t think they’d stay on for anything more strenuous, and figured in terms of sanctioned distances, her ride week was over.

Sarah and I decided to walk over to Steve Bradley’s trailer to look at her pictures from the previous day. He got three very nice shots of them, and Sarah bought them all. At this point she was not expecting to ride more than an intro ride, and said as much.

After we were done with Steve, we headed back to camp to find Dave Rabe with a handful of hoof boots. He had dug around and come up with a pair of glue ons and a Glove in DC’s size. Now, really, she’s a 00.5 on the front. Most days she can even wear a 00 on the front. She’s been going in 0s and when I talked to Dave that was the number I’d mentioned.

We broke out all the equipment, wrestled the taped on boots off, and started gluing new boots on. At one point I allowed as she could really wear a 00.5, and Dave asked why I hadn’t said so. I allowed as I figured he probably wouldn’t have that size. He went back to his trailer and came back with a 00.5. I said that shows what I get for thinking.

The glue took extra time setting up due to the humidity here, but the boots went on well. Sarah and I went and put in our cards for the third day, she for a 25, and me for another intro ride. We vetted the horses in and attended the ride meeting. The 25s would not start until 9am, making for a rather leisurely morning.

We took our time getting everyone ready in the morning, and I sent Sarah and DC off at the appointed time. DC looked quiet and willing at the start. I understand she became insistent and fast in short order. They had a very nice ride, for the most part, and I was glad I’d warned Sarah about DC’s terror of cattle. A calf wandered into the vet check while they were there, and DC was quite convinced it was going to eat her. One of the previous riders leaving the vet check chased it out, which was just as well as Sarah might have had a time trying to get DC past it.

In the meantime, I saddled Hoss up and we headed out for a leisurely 10-mile ride, going out along the power line until we had gone 5 miles and turning back. It turned out we were on the return path for the sanctioned rides, and two riders caught up to use moving at a good clip. This of course blew Hoss’s mind, and we spent the last mile or so having a fight about trying to race the other horses.

We had just gotten our tack off and I’d put Hoss back on his stake line when Sarah and DC returned from their ride. DC looked like she hadn’t left camp that morning. She’d lost the last of the boots I’d glued on before leaving and Sarah had managed to get the size 0 Glove to stay on that hind foot. DC made her displeasure over the gaiter known anytime they stopped, kicking that hind foot. At the end Sarah simply removed it rather than have a fight about the kicking. They completed the 25 in just less than 3.5 hours.

Sarah had to leave for California that night, so I made sure she got her completion awards before she left. DC watched her packing up, and I swear that horse was trying to figure out how to fold herself up and hide in the trunk of Sarah’s car.

Wednesday was the rest, and thus makes for an excellent break point for a blog.

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