Saturday, June 6, 2015

Klickitat Trek – Part 2

This post is all about our “test” of other things that pertain to going down the trail with a healthy mind and body. And my long-winded thoughts, of course.

Tack – pads, saddle, and boots (oh my)

My current tack setup seemed to work fairly well. Deli’s back felt great after the ride and stayed in good shape in the following days. There is still some backwards-forwards sliding of my saddle so I have endeavored to tighten my crupper another hole. It really needs to be tight with this saddle, but so far that doesn’t seem to bother Deli. I’ve been smoothing coconut oil her tail and working it into her tail-hair roots after rides to keep the area happy.

Deli loves my new pad – the ThinLine Endurance Sheepskin pad – that I got for my birthday. It’s sad how quickly the sheepskin gets dirty, though, and ThinLine recommends I don’t wash the pad more than 3 times in its 10 year lifespan. Yikes! I did (and continue to have) issues with the pad sliding back which I’m not sure how to fix. Perhaps sewing billet keepers onto the pad is something I should look into doing.

More like "A+"...
My saddle is still painful for me to ride the miles with, but doing more trotting at the Klickitat Intro Ride confirmed that trotting is far more comfortable for my various bits than long hours of walking. The trotting issue shouldn’t be a problem when it comes to endurance competition…

Speaking of hoof boots, her boots stayed on and worked well for the entire ride. But I was foolish and agreed with my trimmer to get a smaller size Easyboot Glove than I thought would work. I got them on, But Deli’s wide heel bulbs and heels and general made it way more of a PIA than I ever want to struggle with. I went back the Renegades I’ve been using on her hind feet on a trail ride yesterday and I think for the time being (until I can afford another set of Gloves – anyone want to buy the basically new 0.5 wides with powerstraps I was convinced to purchase?). I’ve been using the Gloves on her fronts successfully for YEARS, but have never been quite satisfied by any boot on her hind feet, which are more irregularly shaped and have that fat fetlock scar on her right-hind to contend with.

Vetting in – before and after our intro trail ride

The front of our ride card.

Dr. Foss was the ride vet who checked Deli in and out and he had some valuable comments for us. Our starting evaluation she wasn’t as forward for our trot out, which is easily explained to the somewhat rocky area to trot on and Deli freshly trimmed feet. She’s always very careful about stepping on rocks and it seemed like that was the case here. The weird weather we have been having seems to have made Deli’s soles more sensitive than usual anyway – but since I boot her for pretty much all of my trail riding and she moves out comfortably with them on, I wasn’t too worried. Once it dries out more and stops being hot AND wet, her feet will be more comfortable.

And the back of the ride card.
 I’m sure many other Western Oregon/Washington folks can agree that standing on damp soil all day long is never the best thing for horse feet. I like the rain and the cool weather, but it’s not a natural condition for our horse beasties.  

With her boots on Deli trotted off for our final vet check big and sassy. 

The A- in attitude at our vet-in is related to her not being super forward on our trot out and her fussing some for having her capillary refill checked. We have been working on THAT quite a bit at home and she is loads better. As in, he was actually ABLE to check it this time unlike the vet-in at our Grizzly Intro ride.

At our finish, I did ask the vet what he thought about her ability to do a slow LD since we were the only ones there at that time. He asked some questions about my pacing for this intro ride, how stressed she seemed, and our normal “conditioning” regime. He concluded that he thought she could do a slow LD and recommended I work a little bit to increase her cardiovascular fitness in the meantime if I was worried. As it relates to that the vet said our mostly-walking trail rides at home did seem to be getting her in decent shape muscle-wise, and her heart-rate was in a good place for having trotted into the vet check, but that some added cardio work would make an LD less tiring for her (probably).

He also commented that she was a bit chubby, but that I probably knew that. Yessier, yessir I do. Both Deli and her pasture mate are on a sort of-diet. Their hay ration was decreased and they are eating down what they have in their small grass pasture area.

Deli's favorite thing is eating...
which I hear is good for an endurance horse.
As for the “B” on gut sounds coming in, the vet said not to worry about it unless she SEEMED off. He added that many horses have “Bs” on their gut sounds coming in from the first loop – which is essentially what we were doing. My endurance mentors concurred with that statement and Deli immediately began attacking both food and water at our return to camp.

The vet also stated with respect to us TRYING an LD: you won’t know until you try.

I’ve heard that quite a few times from people that have been in this sport for a long time.

Deli’s skin issues and allergies

A couple days after the ride Deli had another flare-up of her dermatitis in her chest and between her front legs. All the classic signs: inflamed skin leading to skin peeling and sometimes-scabbiness. I treated it with my normal methods which have seemed to work so far, including skin soothing shampoo, antihistamines, and one of several various topicals I use. So far there has been no infection or hair loss, which is what I battled with all last summer. The inclusion of chamomile and spirulena into her diet have seemed to help with her recovery time, as have some other supplements like apple cider vinegar and MSM.

I do have some concern about her skin flare-ups making this sport impossible. I don’t like riding her when she’s having a flare-up (because her skin hurts, obviously), and they are unpredictable. I have started riding her when she is recovering from a flare-up without ill effect so far, which is helped by none of the typical inflamed zones interfere with tack.

The skin issue is another thing that I won’t “know until I try” whether it will keep us from competition. Oral antihistamines that have been helping the severity of the dermatitis cannot be used at an endurance ride so she couldn’t be on that medication before or during any LD. She’s not on them all the time – I just give her a round when she has a flare up.

Insect bites and activity still seem to be the root cause of flare ups, so I’ve been religious with fly spray as well. But it only does so much! This year, given our warm weather over the winter, the flies and insects are particularly bad. Bring on the barn swallows, I say!

Thoughts on our next steps…

I am a bit wary just given Deli’s history of injury and her allergies, but I think the vet and my mentors are right… I won’t know if we can do an LD until we try. And this is the first summer in a long time we have actually been able to do meaningful conditioning and rides. I evened out her one-sidedness in a big way (she still clearly has a weaker side that is weaker than what I've felt in her in the past, so this is ongoing) over the rainy months and now my focus needs to be on MILES.

The trails at my home barn are somewhat limited, but I can access a few nice trails if I suck it up and ride up a road. Apparently I have PTSD when it comes to cars and I battle anxiety when it comes to riding among traffic despite Deli being a champ around moving vehicles of all sorts.

No REAL surprise there, since a lot of my own health issues stem from being HIT by a car while riding my bike. 

The best horse ever, but I'm biased. Deli prefers grass to stupid humans.
On the third day after the Klickitat Intro ride I took Deli out to see what we could see. The beginning of the ride it poured and so we stayed off a lot of the slicker trails. We were able to find some nice access that, if I’m creative, should provide the miles we need to increase Deli’s cardiovascular fitness though steep climbs (to walk up) and a few places we can move out. We still have the problem of not having long tracks to trot on, but I’m hoping as long as we can do the miles and trot where we can, a slow LD will still not be a stretch. During this ride I also trotted her on part of the road, having padded her front boots. That actually worked out rather well.

So the very tentative plan is to take her out on long trail rides at least 2x a week and ride a faster shorter ride at least 1x a week. Given my unpredictable work (and need to take on any work I’m offered) I hope we can still manage this. I’ve decided for both our sakes that we will only ride up the road when we can plan our rides in the middle of the day. All the crazy and dangerous drivers seem to come out near commute times and that’s just too stressful for me.

I even took some short video of our 9 mile trail ride on a rainy day this past week. Deli felt good and raring to go, which was great to feel after working her harder than she has done for quite some time at Klickitat.

Here’s the video:

Yesterday, finding myself more limited on time, I opted for a shorter but much faster ride. I tried to see what kind of pace I could manage in the loops around the fields across the street from my boarding barn. We were able to keep a pace of 5.2mph over our period of 3.5 miles of “work”, allowing for a much slower combined warm-up and cool-off where we walked through the more suburban neighborhood back to the barn that totaled 1.4 miles altogether. It was a hotHOT day and Deli got quite sweaty, but she felt good and happy to move out where the footing was okay.

I’m not going to make definite plans, because if I do Deli (or me) will get hurt. That’s just the way it works in Red Mare land. (But I’m thinking we might try for our first LD in early July if everything is going well.)  

We won’t know until we try…

Last time: Klickitat Trek Intro Ride - Part 1 (wherin I talk about the trails and horse camping).

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