It has been about Six months since Hank had his colic surgery. He has been doing really well. His conditioning program has been increasing, and he seems as strong and healthy as ever. The ride season is upon us, and I have been looking forward to getting out to some rides, and enjoying some trail miles with my boy. While I feel he is ready for all I have been asking him to do, I have still been a worry wart, watching him close for any signs of digestive upset.
This past weekend was his second NATRC ride since the surgery ( The Girl Scout Scamper) and it was held about 275 miles south of us, near the town of Cat Springs TX. I decided to leave in the wee morning hours on Friday, and had Hank in the trailer, and on the road by 3:30AM. I wanted to give him as much time as possible Friday after arrival to eat, drink, and relax after the 5+ hour trip down, and I also wanted to get a camping spot with electricity. We arrived by about 9AM, got parked and Hank settled in quickly. I decided a nap was in order, and laid down for a bit. I must have been tired, as I woke up an hour later, and had a new neighbor. A big beautiful motorhome was parked next to me, about 8" away. That was fine, as no horses were on that side, but how'd I not hear it parking? I was tired indeed!
My camper and our cool neighbors with the big motorhome next door
I checked Hank in with the judges, and saddled up and went for a short 4 mile ride. These trails are well marked with permanent colored markings on boards, and the trail is easy to follow. After we got back, I did a little more clipping on Hanks neck and shoulders, going with the lay of the hair, so I would not mess with the follicles of the new spring growth starting as he sheds the winter coat. The results made him look patchy, but he was cooler, and the coat will grow in fine.
Evening rolled around, and management offered a Pasta dinner. Nice to not have to cook, and it gathered many f the riders in the meeting hall to visit before the meeting. We got our maps, times, and then I was ready to head to bed. Gave Hank a few more carrots, a kiss on the nose and a hug, and told him to sleep well.
Up before dawn, and fed Hank his breakfast goodies, and then prepped for the days ride. The wind was blowing, and we had patches of clouds and fog passing over. I headed up to the timer, deciding I'd time out somewhere in the middle. But as I waited with a few others, here comes a large group of about 6 horses, heading towards the front of the group. I was not going to get right behind all of them, so I ended up timing out first. Headed out at an easy trot, then saw the group cantering up the trail behind me. Why they felt cantering right out of camp was a plan, I have no idea, but I was not going to have them fly past me right before the judges watched us. (I saw the judges trucks just up ahead) So, we picked up an easy canter, and then pulled to a walk as we got to the judges. Hank walked past on a nice loose rein, ears up, cheerful as usual. Here came the pack of followers, and I let them go on past. No need to be caught up in that mess. A few min. later, Don and his nice Arab gelding Khid caught up, and we rode together most of the ride. Hank and Khid paced well enough together, and Hank he was not acting badly having company along. We chatted about all kinds of things, and it was a very nice ride.
Some of the Guinea fowl that live on the ranch, and were out on the trails
Our pulse and respiration checks went well, and Hank did not lose any points. I listened to the vet on her metabolic scores, and he seemed to be doing well. We had an obstacle that was something I have had to do on the trail in the past. A rope was stretched out across the trail, and they told us to imagine it was a downed wire fence, that we HAD to cross. Dismount, stand on the rope to hold it down, and have the horse step across it. Then, after the horse was across, we had to re mount. They had a small step stool there for those who wanted to use it. Hank did very well, and stepped over the rope as I asked, and stood nice for me to climb back on him. I have had situations where we came to a section of wire that was across a trail, and unable to cut and remove it, so this was something practical, and a bit different for us to do. The end of the day we had another check by the vet, and again, it sounded like Hank was doing very well on his metabolic scores, his back was excellent (love my Specialized Saddle) and no lameness issues. Before long, it was the rider meeting, and then again, off to bed. Daylight savings time change, but the ride had us not change our watches until after the ride was over. That worked well.
Another early morning, that I woke up to the sounds of it sprinkling on the camper roof. It lasted long enough to toss a rain sheet on Hank, then it stopped. Not as windy, but still some clouds and fog above us passing by. We had a trot out for the vet, and then heading down the trail again. I timed out in the middle today, and we had instructions to walk until told otherwise. Then we picked up a trot through a section of trail with some kind of low branches like a tunnel. As we rounded a corner, they had set some small logs and limbs across the trail. Hank hesitated, looked at the first one, then trotted slowly across them.
This is a ranch with lots of cattle on it. All kinds, with lots of new born babies. They don't really care about the horses, and often will stand in the trail and not move as you pass a few feet from them.
Cattle near one of the P&R stops
As we rounded a corner into one of the fields with some of the cattle, we hear the words "loose horse" behind us. Here comes the horse who was parked next to Hank, without his owner. He slows down, but does not stop. Finally one of the ladies up ahead catches him, and I volunteer to pony him back to his owner. She had stopped for a little trail break, and as she went to get back on, something spooked him, and he took off through the woods. She was not hurt, and was back on board, and heading back down the trail in no time. Our pulse and respiration check, followed by another metabolic check again had good scores. I was really pleased with how well it seemed Hank was doing. Hank was drinking pretty well out of the ponds and creeks all weekend.
Spanish Moss on the tree
Dons horse Khid stopped at one creek, and decided that they were not just for drinking, and without any real warning, dropped down in the water. But instead of starting to roll, he was sort of on his belly, rocking back and forth scratching it in the mud, as Don was trying to get him to get back up. Khid then stood, and Don was still aboard, and I really thought he was going to get out of this with just wet feet, when Khid went one way, and Don landed in the creek the other. It made for a nice laugh, and a good picture of Don all wet and muddy.
We then had an obstacle that was just the horsemanship judge. At a pond that had a section with a narrow width, we were to ride in, and half way, turn around, and then back out. The footing was a bit muddy, but not bad. The water was just above Hanks knees. He has no issues with water, and is careful with the mud when we water at the ponds. I asked for a nice turn on the forehand, and then asked him to slowly, and carefully back out. He was such a good boy. By not getting in a rush, and asking for slow, easy steps, we handled it really well, and got a verbal compliment from the judge.
Tracey and Amira doing the above pond obstacle
Wish the vet had seen it! But she was up ahead, waiting for us to arrive for her own little obstacle. We had a small log/smooth limb on the ground, for us to stand parallel to it, and side pass over it. NOT Hanks favorite thing to even consider doing. I expected him to jump when he bumped and moved the log, but he didn't, and then managed to step on over it, and pretty much get it down. I was pretty pleased with him, as I know this is an area he has issues. Just a few more miles, and we called it a day. One more final check out with the vet, and the ride was history with the exception of awards. Hank checked out well, and I did not think we lost any metabolic points all weekend from what I could tell. Hank was cheerful all weekend, and took good care of himself. He went down the trail with his ears up, and seemed to be enjoying the ride.
I packed up some in prep of leaving, and waited for awards. I had decided to not leave right away, but nap a little after awards, before driving home. So I was not in a huge hurry to get things ready to roll. But soon enough, they were calling us up that awards were ready. We had a large class, with I think 10 riders. I know that even if you think you had a great ride, anything can happen, and you never really know how you did until your name is hopefully announced. Finally they got to our class, which is last to be announced, and I placed 2nd in Horsemanship. Then we had to wait through all the other classes again for the Horse awards. They announce from 6th, to 5th etc moving up to 1st place. As they are handing out ribbons, I am not being called up, and then we are getting closer and closer, until we get to 1st place, and Hank is announced. I know I teared up again. You can not imagine the feeling. Six months ago, I was going to be happy just to have my horse alive in the pasture. Then we had hope of him being a pleasure mount, even if he never competed again. Then it has moved to him staying healthy at rides. To have him doing so well at the rides, staying healthy, is beyond what I could have ever wished for.
I got home in the early morning hours, and after that 5+ hour trailer ride, Hank was more than anxious to get out of the trailer. He was so excited to be turned loose in the field, and when I did, he galloped around the other horses, rolled, galloped, and I know told him all about his weekend. I swear when he does well at a ride, he is more excited when he gets home.
He knows he is my number one, special boy, and likes to rub it in to the others.
Hank at the end of day 2, after 50-something miles over the weekend