In the past month, we have been doing our final conditioning and prep for Tevis. After the lameness pull at the endurance ride, I had my confidence broken for awhile about Hank being ready. You need to feel the horse is 110% before you head to the ride. A couple trips to the vet, just to have things checked out, and I am feeling good about how Hank is doing. He looks good, is moving sound and balanced, and has a good attitude. But, those little Tevis Gremlins have not moved on to someone else completely. The trailer issue (see below) was not the end of their mischief.
On a training ride in June, I got home, to find Hank had chaffed himself in all his wrinkles near his elbow / arm pit area in front of the girth. I usually spray a bit of Show Sheen on him there, to have things move clean and smooth. But, I forgot, and he was a tad dirty, and the result was hair loss, irritation, and a couple small sores. So I have been slathering on medication to heal the area, and put Bickmores Gall Salve on for training rides. In general, I'd just put a horse out for rest for awhile, but he needs to keep conditioning. Bickmores is amazing stuff, that you can use under tack if needed, and it keeps healing. So now, we are finally going through the stage where the hair is growing in, and he has flakes like a peeling sunburn within all his wrinkles. The girth I use cuts back, and clears the area, but it is his own skin that did this. He is like an elephant, and could use a Nip and Tuck to tighten the skin!
We went down to the ranch that we had our endurance ride over Memorial Day, and helped out at a NATRC clinic. Riding 16 miles with my clinic group, then going back out mid day, during the heat, and doing another 12 miles at a quicker speed. I figured that riding those trails again, with hills, rocks etc. would really show me if he was ready to go. After the almost 30 miles, I was kind of scared to lunge him, for fear I'd see a gait inconsistency. Some of them have been real, and then some things I have seen in his gait I think have just been my mind worried something was wrong, although it wasn't. I have a tendency to think my horse looks off, where many don't see things, and feel their horse looks fine when it isn't. The Tevis entry sent in causes many of us to think something is wrong, when it isn't. We over analyze ever step, head toss and fart the horse does. The lunge line hangs nearby, as we go out and lunge the horse every day to see if they look fine. We watch them walk across the field, looking at foot fall, to see if they are even on both sides.
So lunging him after the 30 miles was something I feared. But he looked great, as did Dollys horse. Next day, when he was at home, trotting across the pasture, I felt he had not looked better. Moving freely, even gait.
With the ride just over 20 days away, I am backing off a tiny bit. I see many riders push and push their horses before Tevis, going to lots and lots of 50's, even doing them just a few weeks ahead of the ride. Often by the time they get to the ride, they have used their horse up, and the horse is tired, or comes up with lameness issues. Rest is good. I'd have liked to have gotten to a couple more 50's earlier in the year, but it just did not happen. I'm feeling the most confident about him being ready now, than I have all year, but know that as soon as you send in that entry, you have a 50/50 chance of finishing. You can do all your homework, condition, prep, and do everything right, and have something happen to get you pulled. And if you are pulled, you and your horse are in the company of some of the best horses and riders in the world who have been pulled on that trail. No one is safe, anyone can be pulled. But I feel that the attitude is so much of giving yourself the best shot of getting that buckle. You need to have the mind set you WILL finish the ride. If you start the ride feeling you think you will get pulled, it raises your chance of having that happen even more.
I know what it takes to finish, know how to pace the ride, and what to expect. I hope I can still stay as mentally sharp as I have in the past, to keep my mind straight, and be concentrating on the timing, my horse, and how the day is going. Hank finished 5 years ago, on his first attempt. Then in 2006, he came in to Michigan Bluff (a tad over half way) feeling stronger than the year before. Walked up the the water, took a sip, backed away, and tried to go down with a case of colic. No sighs leading up to it that day, that told me he was not 100%. Even his heart rate was not showing any signs of stress before that point. Dolly and chance rode on, and she finished on their first attempt. This years plan is for us to ride into the stadium together, along with our friend Sara from CA.
And now I better get back to packing, putting together crew bags, and figuring out just what I need to take. Being a control freak, it will be odd for me to go in someone else's rig. It will be good for me though. A few control issues I need to just let go of, and this is one. We will be traveling in a much more stylish and comfortable rig, thats for sure!
He is looking mighty fit and ready, but I still try to not say the "T" word in front of him.