Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I toad you it is almost spring time

Our Texas winter has been generally pretty mild this year. Not much freezing temps, no snow, and only one ice storm to speak about. While I appreciate the fairly mild days as compared to other parts of the nation, we have also had little rain this winter. We are pushing into spring time, and we are still not getting our spring time rains yet. Tonight I saw that one of our toads has returned to the porch to start munching on bugs. The are Woodhouses Toads, and gravitate towards lights. The porch light brings them out, and we have to watch our step when we head out the door, to not squish one. Not sure why, but their arrival is kind of exciting. I guess it is because I know that indeed, spring is just around the corner.

Hank has finally started to shed some. The others have been shedding for a couple weeks. We have a ride in a little over a week, and I bet I can't get him shed out by then. And of course that means the loose hairs have to be watched so they don't ball up and rub under the girth, saddle pad etc.

He has been doing super with his longer / faster training rides I have built him up to, so I hope that indeed, his tummy is all better. But, I need to see how things go at a few more rides before I can relax some. Then, after a couple more NATRC rides, I will try another 50 mile endurance ride. But I want to wait until we do a couple more competitive rides before we push to the next level again.

Spent the day fussing over the camper, checking propane, cleaning the water tank and lines in the camper, and cleaning out the trailers tackroom. Have sprayed water proofing on all my jackets, and Hanks blanket. Maybe for once, I will not be rushing around at the last min. getting things ready to go to the ride!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Flags big adventure

Saturday was the Freeze R Burn endurance ride on our local trails. I decided that I'd take Flag over there for his first ride . I told hubby I would rather deal with schooling any issues we might have, than him have to deal with it. Some of the benefits of doing this ride for us was that I did not have to camp. I'd go over Friday, check in, take him home, and bring him back Saturday for the ride. Also, knowing the trails, I knew exactly how to pace him over different sections, as I knew what was ahead on the trail. Also, I could wait to enter until I was sure of the weather.

My plan was to enter him in the 50 miler, as he has been doing training rides of close to 25 miles, and he really needed more miles to work on his mental issues with wanting to catch all the other horses he sees on the trail. Our planned pace was to go very slow, trying to keep a 5mph pace for the first part, then start asking for more speed as he settled in to the ride. Last thing I wanted was for him to set a pace, which would be VERY fast. Also, our plan was to time out about 10 min. after the last horses, so he could relax easier, and not feel the need to tug and pull on me, which he has shown me is is capable of doing.

So, most of the above fell into place. Most.... except the weather was typical Texas weather that is never sure of its self. Saddling up, it was 32 degrees, and blowing, and my fingers were cold and hurting.

But the sun was to come out later, with expected temps with wind chill in the upper 40's, closer to 50. We headed out right where I wanted, and he was a perfect boy. Foreward, cheerful, not pulling, and enjoying going down the trail.

(photo by John Adame)

We caught a few riders about a mile out, and passed without drama. We mixed trotting, with a lot of walking, letting him relax. We kept this pace and routine for about 10 miles, and we were passed by a few horses, and again, I was pleased that he did not get race brain and try to catch them. Our schooling at home has paid off on doing lots of work with this. So, the first part of my plan that was a tad off was, our super slow pace was still 6.5mph. I'd trot and walk the normal amounts to keep what is usually close to the 5mph pace, but I had forgot he walks SO quick. I looked at the GPS while walking along, and he was walking at 5.2 to 5.4mph. His easy trot is about 9mph. But, I was fine with this pace, and we kept along. Now is when the weather was getting to Flag. He gets cold easy, and has little body fat over his butt. He was starting to feel short strided, and I felt his hind end was getting cold and tight. I stopped to let him pee, and checked his hind end, and it was tight, but not really bad. I found that if we kept trotting, not mixing in the walk, he would move better. So, for the second half of the 25 mile loop, I kept at a easy, steady trot. We got in to camp in around 3 hours, 45 min.

I grabbed his rump rug, some hay, and headed to the pulse box, then after pulse, to the vet. Went to one of my favorite vets, (Carter) and told him I was thinking he was a bit sore on the hind end, and if he could really check that a little closer. He had all A's on his vet card, except a B on muscle tone. His CRI was terrific, and Carter said his butt was indeed tight, not horrible, and to massage it some. So, over to the trailer, and as Flag ate, I worked on the butt muscles.

At one point, he had one section pop out a bit, and I worked that spot down, but he was still tight. He was resting one foot, showing me some discomfort. But I watched his eyes get soft and relax as I worked the muscles.

At the end of the hold, even though I was not asked to return to the vet, I took him over for a recheck. Carter said he was better, but still a tad tight. So, back to the trailer to think about this.

Remember the weather issue? Well, now some very dark clouds were heading in to the area, and I heard a clap of thunder, and it was sprinkling. I called my hubby, and had him look at radar for the area, and he said the potential was there for some serious rain if it dropped south a bit. And we were to go out on to one of the northern most loops, that had no short cuts back to camp. So at this point, I decided that Flag did not need to go out into the cold any longer since he was not 100%. I really did not want him to cramp up more, or even have a tie up on those muscles while out on the trail, so I took my vet card back to Carter, and did a Rider Option pull.

My main goal was to deal with the mental issues we had expected with the excitement of a ride. That went SO well, and I think he is ready to go to some rides with my hubby. He showed me that his fitness and his metabolics were excellent. And I knew we would have issues when it was cold, and I'll have to consider some different management practices when cold, or try to avoid those really cold rides.(of course, I did not expect it to be win chills closer to upper 30's or 40ish) Hindsight is I should have ridden this horse with the rump rug on, but I always fear they will over heat having so much area covered, and then create more issues. Last thing I want to do is make them sweat even more.

Over all, we had a great half 50 :-), and most of the goals were met. He ended his ride still happy and cheerful enough, and after he got home, and in his warm jammies, he went and rolled, and started chowing down. His favorite thing.

(and thanks to John Nowell for the photos)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Spring is in the air

Well goodness, I have been slacking in my blog duties. After having that little taste of winter with some ice, the weather has actually been pretty nice here in Texas. Overall, our winter has been mild and a little warmer than normal. I do expect at least one more good blast of winter weather before springtime heads our way. Tonight we had some thunderstorms, wind and rain. Some areas got hail, but thankfully not us this time. But as I type this, the wind is starting to howl.

I had concerns on Flag, as thunderstorms are not all that common in So. California, and I was just not sure what his opinion of the situation, heavy rain, and loud thunder would be. But I looked out to the barn during the worse part, and he was standing under the shelter, high and dry. Later after the storm passed, I checked on he and the others, and he had already rolled in the mud. But I was smart, and had a blanket on him to keep him warm, dry, and clean.

Hubby was home for most of a week, and we got in some excellent ride time. Last weekend we took Flag and Hank out for about 16 miles over on the local trails, then the following day hauled to a Greenbelt trail about 35 miles away, and rode down to one end and then turned around and headed back. Put in another 18 miles. It was a great day, and I know hubby enjoyed some new trails, and Flag was on excellent behaviour. We worked on him being left behind as Hank went on ahead, moving out at a good trot next to Hank, and then being asked to stop quick as Hank keeps going, and walking and relaxing on a loose rein. He he did very well, and hopefully it will help his brain stay focused at the first ride we are going to do.

Flag posing with the flags!

Hank is doing really well. he got a bit fat, and his topline is not back to pre-surgery, but I think now that we are slowly bringing up his work load, he will get those muscles back to how he had been last summer. His eye has been acting up off and on. The wind sets it off the most, so I try to keep a fly mask on him when it is really windy, to keep debris from blowing in to it some. His next competitive ride will be next month. I will continue to just do each ride, and then analyze how things are going, and then plan for the next one. I still have a cautious feeling in side, that I don't want to ask too much of him, even thought I think he is ready to do some 50 mile endurance rides if I wanted to with him.

Hank getting a drink out of lake. I often get off when footing is questionable, and you can see that was a plan, as he sunk!

Hank ad I posing in front of Lantana. An Inn at the end of the Greenbelt trail on Lake Ray Roberts. Next time, we will stop and eat lunch before heading back to the trailhead!