I found I did not have time to post over the weekend like I had thought I might. So, here is the story of Hanks first ride after his surgery.
I had no set time to arrive in my mind, and finally hit the road around 10 AM.
Hank ready to go
On the way, I felt a tiny rush of that feeling you get if you might be getting a cold. So, I made a list of things I needed, and made a stop at a Wal-Mart on the way. Some vitamins, some Airborne (the stuff the teacher created to help keep you healthy when around kids with colds) and some juice. Arrived around 12:30, got parked and set up, and then headed to check in. The vet at this ride is one of my favorites. He not only vets NATRC competitive rides, but also AERC endurance rides. Has a great eye and ear to find things before they become big issues. Part of going to this ride was the fact he was the vet. I knew he’d take that extra care to keep an eye on things that I might miss during the ride. And also willing to look at the horse anytime between his regular checks if I had any concerns or questions. We walked up to him, and I told him Hank had colic surgery about 95 days ago. Poor man, I knew he’d be set back, as most seem to be much more serious than Hanks ended up being. I explained what the surgeon had to do, Hanks recovery, the vets recommendations, and that they said to “Go have fun” when I called them about going to a ride. He was thankful I told him everything. I was thinking “Why wouldn’t I ??” And then felt bad for a horse that a rider would hide all that info. Even if it meant that my horse might be scrutinized more, I wanted to make sure he was aware of what the horse had been through, and to make sure we were good to go all weekend. The first thing he checked was his gums, and asked me if I had been looking at them at home on a regular basis. Oops, I was guilty of not doing so, but will now. They were injected, meaning a little of that red, Toxic line near the teeth, and slightly yellow. Great, first thing to worry and obsess over! The rest of his check in was great. I told him I’d bring him over in the AM, before we timed out, to make sure he was looking better.
It was a chilly night, with the temp. getting down to 26 degrees. Hank had his super warm jimmies, and I had my super warm sleeping bag, and my camper has heat. 6AM came way to early to my mind, but I gave him his morning goodies, and I got ready. It was a beautiful sunrise, and I was excited to see what kind of day it was going to be
I wanted to ride towards the back of the group, so I’d not be pressured to push quicker if someone was on my heels, and there was no place to pass, or I was trying to keep that nice window where we are not in a big group. I rode with Dolly and her horse Sparq. Hank and Sparq adore each other, as they train together some, and often it can cause issues with them at rides, but we got going and it was working out fine. About a mile out of camp, the judges had us pick up the canter, then do a halt. Chilly morning, and fresh horses can, and did, cause some entertainment for them. Thankfully, it was not Hank. Had a little hump in his back, but did not buck, and stopped pretty nice. I was thrilled, as he can, and has bucked some out of joy at a canter when feeling good. Six O ranch is a 1600 acre private cattle ranch. The trails have been created for distance rides. They work their way all over the ranch, up on some “hills” with views, and through the woods, and over prairie like sections.
Look, you can see camp
Later after our pulse/respiration stop, the vet checked metabolics. Hank was doing great, but did not want to stand still, and got dinged a point. Bad Hank. Later the horsemanship judge had an obstacle that we were to back up a small hill. Well, Hank, who does this at home perfect, decided that he would nt only say no, but say HECK no. Even reared a little, which is something he has never done. He thinks for himself often, and I could tell those brain cells were in overdrive, and he decided he was just not going to do this. Thankfully I was able to school him, and we got it done, but got a no score. I was glad the vet did not see his naughty behavior. (we did it twice on Sunday on our own when we passed it, just fine)
Now, the part of the story that could have been SO bad, but turned out fine. As we were watering in one of the creek crossings, Dollys horse Sparq, stepped into a small, shallow hole in the rock base of the creek. Imagine a large flat rock, that has dips, divots, and rough spots from the erosion. Now imagine one that is about the size of a horses foot, and 4-5” deep. Dolly felt Sparq start to move, and then stop as his right front foot was stuck. She hopped off, I hopped off and was able to quickly tie Hank to a tree with his halter bridle combo to hold him, and she started to try to un-stick his foot. But because the rock was solid, we could not break away any chunks around it, and we could not push the foot backwards, or forwards, as rock was blocking that action too.
If he really pulled it would not only rip off the shoe, and a bunch of hoof, and if he went sideways, and the foot did not come loose, a broken leg was a huge possibility. But he stood perfect. I mean. PERFECT. Between riders cantering into the P&R for help, and the drag riders calling on the radio, we had some help, and tools arriving. The first, a fence tool/hammer, was not able to do much. Then a car tire iron budged the hoof a little, but finally started to bend! At last, the ranch manager and vet arrived with a crow bar. By working it under the hoof and shoe, they were able to get the foot to shift backwards enough, to finally lift it out of the hole. The shoe pulled loose, and they had to remove it the rest of the way. We rode on into the P&R, where I was able to get an easyboot on the foot and Dolly was able to finish the days ride. Towards the end, Sparq was starting to look a little bit off when he trotted. She got the show replaced, and he vetted out Saturday fine, but Sunday was a tad off on circles, so Dolly decided to pull from the ride. Looks like just a bit of stress to the ankle joint, and she said he was better Monday AM. This was such a freak thing to have happen. And had Sparq been less cooperative, the results could have been devastating. But he never flinched or tried to get out of the situation on his own in a panic. He had two people down in front of him working on the foot, Dolly holding him, and others nearby, ready to help if needed.
At the end of day check out, Hank had perfect scores, with the exception of a point loss for muscle tone. Metabolics were great though, and I was not surprised with a little MT score loss, as it was a long day for Hank. That night it was time for the ride potluck. This region sure can cook, with many yummy dishes to chose from. It was hard to not just eat a whole meal at the desert table, but I resisted, and had just a tiny piece of a couple items. Hank appreciates that I am sure. He has to carry enough of me already!
Sunday AM we headed out a little earlier, and with his trail partner not going out today, we found a pocket, and rode most of the 26 miles alone. It was a lovely day, a bit warmer, and Hank was feeling great. He had his ears up more, and seemed to be enjoying himself more.
My favorite view
We had an obstacle to do that involved crossing a creek, going over to a log and side passing it and stopping at the fence/gate, reaching down and clipping a close pin on it. They judged the horses willingness to cross the muddy creek, the side pass, and willingness to stand still as we clipped the close pin. The horsemanship judge commented that was the best she had seen that morning. Then the horse behind him, a really nice Appaloosa took it a notch higher, and was picture perfect!
The ranch has a lot of wildlife, and I came around a corner, and spooked up a doe. As I looked towards the trees to see if I could see her again, I saw a nice buck watching us trot by. Can you see him? (might have to click and enlarge the photo!)
Would you have passed the buck?
At our on trail vet check, Hank again had great metabolics, with the exception of a little slow Capillary refill. And he stood still this time for the vet. His P&R’s were great, and even had an 8 (32 in a min.) pulse at one. I really enjoyed riding along, listening to my Ipod, and knowing that the possibility of my not ever doing this again with Hank had been strong. The day seemed to go shorter, and before we knew it, we were heading back into camp.
At the final check out, Hank had perfect scores, with the exception of his mucus membranes, which were down a little, and he had a point loss. He actually got a + on final for having better MAW (movement/.attitude/willingness) than at check in. I was thrilled. That was the best moment of the ride, to know he had not been over stressed, and that we were indeed ready to get back to some rides. I was just floating as we headed back to the rig. I hugged on him and gave him some more carrots.
Then at the awards, out of 9 horses, he placed 2nd. And while that was the icing on the cake, I think that final vet score meant more to me this weekend than anything.
All photos from the ride are