Saturday, May 28, 2016

Mt. Adams LD follow up thoughts...

Oh yeah, we had fun.

Deli's back is just about 100% better after the soreness from the ride. And her first rides afterward (I gave her a good chunk of time off) she felt great. We obviously still have a few things to fiddle with, but hope to improve with each LD we do.

Problems we encountered that we need to fiddle with:

Back soreness. Likely from exertion (especially trotting downhill and me being less balanced there), being weaker on one side, and possibly compounded by cramping from the cold. Planned solution? More practice trotting downhill for both of us, increasing strengthening exercises for Deli (especially these canter exercises my trainer friend suggested). For the cold, I just need to get a cooler on her ASAP when we stop if the temperature is at all cool and ride with a rump rug on cool parts (even if I have to keep it rolled up). There is also a possibility the saddle is an issue and I will continue to be vigilant in that regard. I am planning on playing with the rigging and the pad(s), and thinking of bolstering the front even more. Since it sits a little downhill already, it may have thrown me off more than expected on those gradual downhills.

I am also going to try and determine if I can get off and jog besides her for some of these long gradual slopes. It's a big IF with my knee and hip issues, but I thought I'd try anyway.

As for the cramping, she definitely did stiffen some in the brisk cool wind. It might have been better to come in hot, knowing I had a cooler in the pulse-in area, rather than jump off before the finish line and walk her in. Hmmm. Maybe more electrolytes?!

Also: bring liniment next time!

Skin flaking. Actually, this problem was not as bad as I expected it to be. Her armpits flaked some, as did everywhere where I had tack on her body. She has such sensitive skin and I'll take the dandruff-ick over the inflamed raw sores any day. I also didn't give her any anti-histamines after the ride because the insects were non-existent. In retrospect a single dose might have helped her sensitive skin after the fact even if she wasn't bitten up.

Stocking up and space. Due to Deli's lymphangitis she gets fatleg if confined at all, so I bandaged her hinds after the ride (and overnight the night before). The next morning her front legs were a bit stocked up too, which is less common for her. Tying her to the trailer is not ideal for this horse. She needs as much space to move around as possible AND standing wraps. I am planning to collect supplies between now and the next ride to set up an electric corral for her. While not my ideal choice, since I do not have a rig of my own the electric corral will be the most portable and least PIA when bumming rides. Deli is respectful of electric tape so it should be okay. and I can build her something a bit bigger for less money than corral panels.

By the way, can I just say how impressed I am with Deli for not killing herself tied to the trailer overnight?! That was my backup of a backup plan as I had thought to borrow a corral and/or electric pen, which ended up not actually existing when i arrived. We did not practice the tying overnight-thing before trying this at a busy ride. And we were camped right next to the trail! She did paw some and stuck her fat face in my riding-buddy's business (since I tied to her trailer and Deli was in reach of the back of her truck), but otherwise she did pretty good. I just plopped an entire bale of hay down in front of her, which also served as a barrier between her and the sharp bits of the trailer side.

I just had to keep the mantra in my head from my friend and trainer who helped me with Deli in our first years: plan and do what you can and for everything else, ENDURE.

Here are some photos of our vet card:

Deli pulsed in really well (though she was anxious for her vet check-in!). I was also very happy with her CRIs, since her fitness was a big question mark for me. I think we can get them even better with work. Probably she just has that Arabian metabolic advantage.

The B in gut sounds is something I wasn't super worried about day-of because she ate really well most of the day and into the night. She did eat a few mouthfuls of grass on the trail and carrots (fed by hand). Her hydration did perk up on the second loop because she drank so well after the first. On the first loop she just sipped water when offered.

Also for checking her mucous membranes and capillary refill, she would not let the vet do it. However, all the vets at the ride let ME show them her gums and hydration so it wasn't a big issue. Deli does get more fussy about her face being handled by strangers in hectic environments, so I think this is something we will need to practice more at rides.

Mt. Adams is well run, but it is a HUGE ride and the pulse-in area and vet checks were BUSY. Deli did pretty well, but I'm curious to see how she does at a smaller ride. Also the 30 minute hold felt so short, and I think we even left after our release time(?)

So those are my closing thoughts. She felt good when I went out for 5 miles today. She's going to get a good amount of work this week and then another whole week off because my husband and I are going on our first vacation in years to Yellowstone. I am hoping to get to another one of my bucket-list rides in July and try another LD with Deli there.

Last time: We completed our first LD!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Mt. Adams 2016 – we completed our first LD!

We did it! I didn't jinx it! Deli didn't injure herself the day before! She got in the trailer! We arrived intact and rode 30 miles!

Deli and I COMPLETED our first limited distance ride yesterday! We completed 30 miles at the Mount Adams Endurance Ride.

I am so very happy with Deli and had a blast on the trail. The Mt. Adams ride is beautifully run. Which is a good thing, because it is a BIG and BUSY ride (with 68 riders, I believe, in the LD and… 30 started in the 100 miler!). The trail was well-marked and the scenery was absolutely stunning.

At home, waiting to leave.
Deli felt great all day. We dealt with some over-excitement on her part, which was expected for her first ride. She got fairly strong at points (though never out of control) and I was glad I opted for her snaffle bridle over the side-pull. Her power-trot was exhilarating as we wove our way up and up through the forest. It threatened to rain all day, sprinkling on as at times. When we climbed through an old burned out area, the mist crawled in between the blackened trees. At one point we got a close-up view of Mt. Adams’ snowy base. The first loop was long and involved a lot of passing and being passed by other groups of riders. I rode all day with my friend Vanessa and her horse Jinn and had a great time with them.
All vetted in on Friday! With her whole bale of hay...

Deli ties to the trailer overnight for the first time. And Jinn is CUTE.
 Our only trail “mishap” was Deli having a freak out about the first bridge we encountered. She ended up crashing into a downed tree with her hind legs and giving me a brief heart attack. So I hopped off, let folks pass, and examined her for injuries. Miraculously she was totally fine and it was easy to mount again on one of the many downed trees in the forest.

Deli vetted in great at the first check after 16 miles – all As and A minuses. We walked out of camp on a loose rein for the second loop and when I asked to pick up the trot again she was totally game. We were able to find a bubble for a bit in the second loop, and I think this was my favorite time. With a loose reins we mostly let our horses pick the pace, which was typically around a 7mph chugging along trot. At points they picked up the ground eating 10mph trot. For the most part we did not go fast, however, as I had plans to not push Deli too hard. She came back into the camp after another 13 miles still happy to trot forward, ears up. Of course I question her soundness and ability with all the injuries she’s had, so I was very happy with how she moved all day.

The trails (ridden on Friday).
She ate up those hills and seemed to be enjoy the experince! It wasn’t until the last few miles I felt she started to “guard” her right hind a little. She was still moving cleanly, but it did feel like that weak leg was getting tired faster than her other three limbs.

We pulsed in fine and got a completion, ending up with a 43rd place out of 60.

The “bad” things mostly related to her after the ride. The wind was brisk and cold when we pulled tack, and even though I got a cooler on her ASAP she started to cramp along her back and topline. She got Bs on her back on the final vet through and the vet commented that she was stiffening up in the cold. I also thought she was a bit back sore beyond just cramping, to my disappointment. The saddle has been a big question for me (due to that edema – which ironically we had no issues with for this ride) and I hate that she has a sore back. This saddle we have is the MOST comfy I have ever been in tack. In fact, I feel pretty darn good today. A bit of muscle soreness, but no un-right pain (though  I am personally very sleepy from two nights with poor sleep).

The next hour she was eating and drinking great, but she definitely seemed to be stiff and uncomfortable on her topline and generally cramped up just standing around. She was shifting about on her feet. As Deli seemed most comfortable sedately walking around camp and grazing, that’s what we did for about an hour or two after our ride. When she seemed a bit looser I tied her back to the trailer with her bale of hay and a bucket of carrots and went to pass out for a bit in our tent with my husband (who crewed for me like a champ all day).

She did fine overnight but, unfortunately, her back was still sore this morning. I got some advice from riders more experienced than me: that it might just be all the downhill trotting or the exertion (and not the saddle?). If that’s the case the soreness should be gone by tomorrow or the next day. If not, something else may be going on. She didn’t feel fussy or sore-backed at all while I was riding. In fact, she seemed to enjoy herself. Particularly when we were in that bubble I could feel that delightful curious spark she has, wondering what was around the next bend in the trail.

After the ride, trying to keep warm!

My husband was so helpful and wonderful all weekend.

Ride camp this morning.

Deli was perky this morning! Demanding her mash.
She also led a good portion of the way! My submissive weenie of a pony is turning into something else… and I like it! Her worst spook of the day was right when we were coming back into camp from the first loop. Go figure.

I’ll probably post more about the ride later because I’m still mulling over my experiences.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Conditioning Update (May 2016)

Deli and I have been doing... decently? Nothing has gone wrong, at least. Due to work continuing to be life-consuming my conditioning miles have been less than I'd like. I've tried a couple different saddles without finding anything better than what we have. And honestly, Deli's back feels great. This was confirmed by my chiropractor (who is also a vet).

Considering she would get sore spots on her shoulders from our custom-fitted dressage saddle (and her lower back would lock up with miles) I think we are in a good place right now. I do hope to alter the rigging of my treeless saddle, as I think that's what causing the issues I'm seeing. Can I just say that the dealer for GHOST saddles is the best customer service I've ever experienced. Just impressive!

I've even moved shims around in my Skito pad and gotten a better sweat pattern. Though she has been attacked by bees several times since the hot weather started. Have I mentioned that managing her various issues is always exciting? Ha. No.

Sweaty and bee-sting-ed.
Grass-brain is a problem here.

Milo McIver State Park. A good place to ride!
Sweat and a dusty horse = yuck.
Deli has been incredibly sassy. Though our last ride of 18 miles went fine (read: it was hot and we were all lazy), she refused to load to go home again. So this week she is getting off work but I have been reinforcing that particular skill. Much to my redhead's chagrin. She is claustrophobic and I kind of get the feeling this issue is going to rear it's ugly head every now and then.

The only other news on the horizon is: time to do something official?! If all goes well, Deli and I will be headed to our first LD together at Mt. Adams. I'm loathe to say anything because I've become increasingly superstitious over the years of mishaps and failures. There is still so much that can go wrong before this Saturday (not to mention things that could go wrong during the ride).

I am very lucky that my best friend and husband is coming to be my crew and someone to absorb my anxiety. Oh, and help me pack since I still have a full work week ahead of me.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Saddle fit and discouragement...

The Ghost saddle may not work. And the thought of doing more saddle shopping right now makes me want to Give Up On All Things Horse.

I don't think it's the horse in general, but the fact that so many areas of my life right now are being met with disappointment and a lack of answers (specifically with health problems I am having). I guess I'm just worn out and discouraged and this is more of the same.

I'm getting some clear pressure points now that I've experimented with saddle pads that make her sweat more. Another reason for the experimentation was seeing some edema.

The edema I'm seeing shows up on her spine (as demonstrated by ghost finger above) after rides. Based on conversations with experts this is a sign there is pressure alongside and fluid is squeezing into the spine channel. This edema disappears within a minute and none of her back is painful to any kind of palpation. In fact her back generally feels good, though I feel it won't last given what I'm seeing! This is comparing to our old dressage saddle which had a more even sweat pattern, no edema, but DID make her tender to palpation! It seems like every saddle we've tried has some issue, though I have yet to have the same issue with different saddles.

I got a new Skito pad that is very shiny with a shim set I was certain would at least help. I rode 7 miserable miles in it yesterday and... NOPE. Same issues. The shim set I got for the Skito pad (which is gorgeous, by the way) was intended to fill the "dip" in her sway back... which is the area I'm seeing the pressure and edema.

My new Skito.
Possibly this problem is contributed to by the saddle wanting to slide back. It will slide back a good three inches on big uphills and I can't get my breastplate any tighter. It already interferes when she puts her head down to graze.

Another thing to note: the Ghost is treeless. The dry spots and edema are right around where my weight is. Possibly I'm just too heavy for treeless, though I am within the recommended weight range for this saddle right now.

I don't know.
Another example after a rinse that shows the curve of her back better.
I know lots of recommendations for saddles to try will come flooding in if I look for them, but I can't afford something more than around $1k right now (and that's if I sell this NEW saddle, ugh). If only saddle brands did rent-to-own stuff! Plus, there is no guarantee that a more expensive saddle will help at all. This saddle performed great in my trial and is the most comfy saddle for ME that I've tried. That's one reason I wasn't sure I wanted to make this post at all.

It would be great if I could borrow saddles to try, but Deli just isn't shaped like many other horses. Part of me thinks treeless is our only option. How else to you accommodate a sway-back, wide as hell, forward-girth groove, sensitive skinned redheaded pony?

She isn't sore so I'm going to keep riding and tweaking things to see if I can make some difference. But I'm not feeling super hopeful today.

Here's what I plan on trying:

  • Less stretchy girth (may help the saddle from sliding back but historically Deli has been intolerant of a non-stretch girth).
  • Moving shims around.
  • Trying NO shim in the Skito pad.
  • Swap back to the slimmer panel to see if that makes a difference (probably not).
  • See if I can get to a place to have a fast FLAT conditioning ride to determine if the sliding back is a contributing factor. Or bore our brains out doing laps in the arena...

I switched to the wider panel which is supposed to spread out the weight more.
Feeling very "grey" today, despite the sun finally being out.
I am still planning on our first endurance ride in late May. Conditioning-wise Deli is looking good for a conservative LD. I suppose if the greater distance does make her sore then I will have my answer and truly return to the drawing board. (And probably be out for another season. A thought which I can't stomach right now.)

Last time: Conditioning in March, 2016 – Ups (and Downs)