Sunday, August 16, 2009

recharging and reflecting

After our last ride, I have been spending time recharging myself and Hank. All of this travel is probably the harder on the Hank, more than doing the actual rides. With a normal ride year we have more time between rides and our travel time is not as long. Within our region it usually only takes us 3 to 6 hours to get to 99% of the rides. I often leave Thursday to arrive by dark or leave pre-dawn on Friday to arrive as early as possible. I still like to give the horses time to rest before we check in at the rides. Then, after the ride, I almost always leave Sunday after awards, as long as the horse is looking good and seems ready to travel. With the longer distances we have been traveling I have been leaving earlier in the week to arrive and have been waiting until Monday morning to leave from most.

Hank travels well, eats well, but does not drink as well as I would like him to. I am cautious about letting him stuff himself on hay if he is not also taking in enough water. I guess I am a bit cautious after having the colic surgery. To make up for the lack of water he drinks in the trailer, he gets beet pulp mashes along the way that are super sloppy wet. He eats Timothy hay on the road, as it is easier to digest. If we stop for the night he will usually drink well and also get to eat as much hay as possible. Still, with all the traveling, he has lost more weight than I would like. So he has been out in the pasture 24/7 since the last ride. Thankfully, with some resent rains, it turned green again and is not as brown and crunchy. I bring him in a couple times a day and give him some Timothy pellets I found at a local feed store and he also continues to get his beet pulp mashes. I can see him gaining some of the weight he lost back and is filling in again. We have 3.5 more weeks until we load up again to head to the next ride.

Hank grazing in the yard where they think the grass tastes better

Also from the weight loss his body is changing shape and the saddle was fitting differently than from the beginning of the season. Unfortunately I had not checked the fit and at the last ride he had a slightly tender spot on one side in front of the loin area. I ride in a Specialized Saddle. One of the reasons I bought a Specialized is the ability to change the fit of the saddle between different horses or as the horse changes, like Hank did and I can adjust the saddle. So before we went for a ride this weekend I set the saddle on his back without the saddle pad, checked the fit and saw that the angle of the bars needed adjusted. I pulled out the wedge shims that were on the saddle and inserted the next thicker set. I also brought the whole fitting panel up a bit, to have it not fit as wide as needed when Hank is more round then headed out for a ride. It spread the weight and contact area back out over his back in a larger area and hopefully we are back in business. If he gains more weight and widens out again, it is easy enough to readjust for his shape.

The fit of the saddle before I changed the shims. See the gap under the panels where the saddle sits wide on his back

changing to a thicker wedge shim matching the pitch of his back better. Will fine tune fit after a ride or two

Along with the horse and saddle needing some attention, I took the trailer in and got a couple new tires. I always wear my tires out before they would ever be compromised from the sun from the trailer just sitting. We have to trailer to ride the trails and it is about 10 miles of gravel roads. Gravel really wears the tires out fast. Then, with all the rides we go to, they have been getting some serious mileage on them. So now I have 4 new tires on the trailer all put in within the past 4 months. While it would be nice to have them all need to be changed at the same time, that never seems the case. Next, I need to take the truck in next week t have the brakes checked. It is time and again, all these miles, I need to make sure we are good on the mechanical things.

It looks like we will have out biggest challenge next month. To get to the number of rides we need for year end national standings, we need to go to six more rides. They take points from the first 16 rides you go to in a season. We have done 10 rides already this year. Since I had never, ever considered doing this point chasing, I did not start out the year with such a plan in my mind so we did not get to as many early season rides. But as Hank started doing so well, we were convinced we should go ahead and give it a go. Thus, our next 5 rides are one weekend after the other, with a break of one weekend and then the final ride of the year. I still focus on one ride at a time, but of course I have planned ahead for the rides that will follow. We start back up with a beautiful ride in Tennessee, then head straight to Oklahoma without coming home. We will stop at home for a day or two before heading back to New Mexico to see all our new Region 3 friends. Then, the following weekend is a ride here on our home trails! Only a 12 mile drive!!! After that we head to Nebraska, then a week off and we finish up with a ride in our own region with a ride in East Texas, only 200 miles away! Whoo Hoo.

That center point under the F is home.

Awards are for the people, not the horses. The horse does not care if he wins or not. Feed them, love them, treat them right and they are happy campers. But I also keep thinking that there is some reason Hank has done so well this year. Maybe to bring to attention that colic surgery is not always a death sentence, nor does it always stop the horses ability to go on and compete and BE competitive. I have been involved in this sport off and on since I was a kid in the late 70's. Maybe it is our way to give back to the sport by bringing Hanks story into the spotlight and give NATRC some recognition on a national level with an article here or there. I'm just not sure but all I can say is that I am feeling we were called to do this. Most riders plan way ahead and make the conscious decision to do so. We never did. Our first ride was just my wanting to see if he could come back into the sport, then after a couple rides, I was hoping he would get another National Championship. When he did that, we looked at placing in our weight division on a National Level. But we never thought of doing 16 rides in a year until about 1/2 way through the season!

I am still amazed at this little horse. Labor Day weekend will be one year since he was put on that surgical table and opened up to see what was going on with him. When we made that decision to do the surgery, we had felt if all he could ever do was to be a pleasure mount for my husband to ride, that would be OK with us. He had already proven to us he was something special by finishing the Tevis 100 mile endurance ride in 2005 on his first attempt and got me my Tevis buckle. He had earned a National Championship in 2006 in NATRC and most importantly, he has become a family member. So as we have been traveling all over the country this year, I realize the most important thing is that I get to see some wonderful trails, on a horse that means more to me than any award.

Now, where did I put those maps.....???


Tracey said...

Great post! I think the reason you and Hank are doing so well is you do it for the love of the SPORT...not for the points or prizes!

I'm so enjoying reading all your adventures and rooting for you every step of the way.

Danielle said...

It sounds like Hank is doing very well this year and handling all the travel very well. Travel is so hard on these guys and they are so stoic in showing it. They are truly amazing creatures at adapting to everything we ask of them. I am really enjoying your blog and reading about you ride adventures.

And as I wait to find out what is going on with Huck, your Hank stories give me hope.


Tammy in TX said...

Your blog is so inspiring Jonni. Thank you for sharing Hank's story.

Tammy said...

"on a horse that means more than any awards"....

Got a big lump in my throat reading that. His recovery has been incredible - been following your blog for awhile - and to see you traveling all over, competing, winning - WOW! What an accomplishment. You should be proud.

I quickly scanned your map hoping we'd meet up. I am going to do my 2nd ride at Stephen's Forest in Iowa wkend of Sept. 19. Planned to do Indian Cave, but both my boys have football games that weekend, so it didn't work out. Have friends who will be riding it or volunteering. I'll make sure they introduce themselves to you for me.