I guess it is time I update folks on what Hank and I have been up to. A year ago this weekend, was our first trip to Colorado for a NATRC ride, and the real start to point chasing and traveling all over the country to rides. The ride was near Colorado Springs, and Hank showed me he was a tough cookie, and won the highest award against horses who condition at elevation. He is a flatlander horse, who does not get much in the way of mountain training.
In 2005, he showed me just how tough he was, when we finished the Western States 100 miler, AKA The Tevis on my first attempt with Hank. I had tried the ride two times before, with different horses. The first time was back in 1988. It is the most well known endurance ride in the world, and also known as one of the toughest. The following year we went back with my friend, Dolly, and Hank had a bout with colic at about 60 miles. While our ride came to an end there, Dolly rode on, and finished in her very first attempt at the ride. We have kind of talked about the ride since then, with both of us mentioning we would like to go back.
So, three weeks ago, Dolly and I went ahead and sent in our entries for this years Tevis. We have started to up our conditioning rides here on our local trails, moving out quicker, and some times a bit longer. Also riding in the heat of the day. This weekend was an endurance ride down near Austin TX at a private 6000 acre ranch. Some hills, rocks, and heat would make it perfect conditioning/training and a test on Hanks fitness level.
Left at about 4:30 AM Friday and headed to the ride, arriving around 10:30AM, securing a nice parking spot with an Oak tree to each side. Shade for both horses, and the dogs.
The ride was offering two days of riding, but I had not decided about Sunday, as I was focused on the Saturday ride, and my plan for Hank and I for the day. Get through day one, and I'd decide if I would ride Flag on Sunday, Hank again, or just head home.
The plan was to ride a bit quicker than I normally do at rides, trying to finish the 50 miles with a ride time of about 7:30 hours (plus the vet check hold times) At Tevis, the first 36 miles of the ride has sections you need to move out quickly where you can, as you then have sections where you have no choice but to go slow, walking and picking their way through rocks, mud / bogs and crappy footing. I needed to know Hank and I could move out at that pace as needed.
Ride start, because of the heat was at 6:15 AM. We started with about dozen horses out in front of us, and quickly found a pocket where we were pretty much alone. It is to easy to get sucked in with another rider and end up not riding at the pace you planned, and either be pulled along too fast, or slowed down. I had my GPS along to check speed and distance, but tried to not look at it, and just ride at the feel of the pace I wanted to go. The trail was a mix of some ranch jeep roads, cross country, and cattle trails. We had creeks and water troughs for water. Plenty of green grass for the horses to snack on along the way. Saw signs of wild pigs, and saw a few deer. What a lovely ranch! I wanted to finish the first 15.5 mile loop that ended near camp in 2 hours, and I came in almost exactly on my pre-planned time. Then headed out on the next 10 miles, wanting to finish it in about 1:30. As we timed in for our first vet check / hold, it had been 3 hours and 15 min, so a little quicker than planned, but I was happy with how he felt. I went to my camp, stripped his tack,and headed down to the vet check. His pulse was down, and we headed to the vet.
His metabolics were good. Not perfect. After we trotted out for the vet, he mentioned seeing a little intermittent lameness every 4th step or so. I headed back to the camper, to let him eat and drink, and to replenish myself. It was not even 10AM, and I am guessing it was close to 90 degrees. I had been good, and drank about 4 bottles of water in that first 3 1/2 hours, and had been taking my electrolytes. After I ate and drank more, I headed out to check Hank over, and get his tack back on him. I decided I should look at that left front leg the vet thought he saw a little something on, and found he had torqued a shoe a tiny bit, and one of the nails had came out a tad. The ride farrier was out riding the 25 mile ride, so I was on my own. I pulled the nail (so glad I bought the little tool to assist with that), and decided to put a standard easyboot over the shoe, to make sure it stayed on. Actually, over both front shoes, so he would be even and balanced going down the trail. I ended up staying in camp an extra 20 min. after my "out time" getting the shoe issue taken care of, and was mad at myself for forgetting to always check their feet at the start of a hold, in case you need to find a farrier, or fix things.
It was now getting super hot, and I decided I'd try to do the next 15 miles in 3 hours, which was a much slower pace, but I wanted to keep an eye on the possible lameness. This part of the trail had a lot of ranch roads, some hills, and beautiful views.
We had been riding alone for awhile, and as it got warmer, Hank started to pout a bit about being alone, and thinking no one else was out there. He would poke along, looking around for another horse. I was not feeling a true lameness, but found that when we trotted, it was more difficult than usual to post on his left diagonal. It is always easier to post on the right, but when we did so on the left, it twisted my body more than the normal. We finished the loop right on my time I had set, and had done the first 40 miles in about 6:30 of ride time. I headed right to the vet area, leaving his tack on him. His metabolics got better than the first check, but when we trotted, the vet saw he was off on every step now. I pulled the boots, to see if he moved better, but it was actually worse, so our day was done.
Back at the trailer, took care of him, he continued to eat and drink like a champ. Decided I'd pass on riding the next day, and also thought it would be best to head home after it got dark, to beat hauling in the heat the next day. So, left around 9PM, and pulled in the driveway at around 3AM.
My plans for pace, dealing with the heat for both of us etc. went very well, and I am pleased with how Hank looked, how well he ate and drank. Now to figure out if it is just the torqued shoe that has caused the lameness. I have an infrared thermometer, that you point it at a surface,a nd it gives you a digital read out of the surface temperature. Great to compare a horses legs, looking for hot spots, which could indicate an issue. Checking both front legs, I have not found any hot spots on the leg or hoof of his left front. He had been a tad more lame 2 hours after the ride, but is now back to the slightly off that he was at the end of the 40 miles. He does not look like he did a thing, and was cheerful when I fussed with him this afternoon.
Because it had been awhile since I had ridden as far, at that pace, in the heat, I was concerned on how I would feel. I was happy the heat did not kick my rear, and that I have very little muscle soreness. I broke out in a heat rash on my legs, even with some gold bond applied. But, not itchy or sore, just speckled!
So we do not have any planned events between now and Tevis. I will be back to this weekends ranch next month helping with a NATRC clinic if all is well with Hank and the lameness, I can get in some more good conditioning on those trails, in the heat. Might also haul up to Oklahoma to the mountains for some riding. But first, I need to figure out what is going on with Hank. Will take him to his favorite vets at Lonestar Park (where he had his colic surgery) as they are awesome with lameness issues. I'm not one to just wait for him to get better. I think it is best to take him to the vet while lame, so they can find the issue, rather than have something maybe reoccur because one did not check it out the first time. Rather spend the money for the vet to say "he bruised his foot", than to find out that he had something more serious happen, that I ignored, just assuming it was something simple.
I always said the entry fee for Tevis is the cheap part. It is all the money spent leading up to the ride, and the travel that is so expensive. The horse needs to be 110% before I'd decide to load him in the trailer to head to the ride. You do not want to have ANY doubts about the horses ability to finish. Of course, right now, I have lots of doubts because my horse has a little hitch in his get-along right now. And he is one of those horses who is rarely "off". Always a super sound horse. Never has lost any points for lameness at any of his NATRC rides.
There ya go. An update from Hank and I, and what we have been up to, and what we are planning. Of course *I* did not tell Hank ab out the whole Tevis plans, but I am guessing he found out somehow, thus the lameness issue.