Thursday, March 30, 2017

Audrey’s Shanghai Trails Ride, Sunday 30-mile Ride

Warm-up in the mist. Photo by: Bobbie  Lieberman
I’m separating the events of this ride into 3 posts to describe Friday Pre-Ride Catastrophe, Saturday 55-mile Ride and Sunday 30-mile Ride. Each day I learned a lot and hope to pass this on to other Green Beans.

This was Leggs, (aka Go Away’s Midnight Dancer) the Missouri Foxtrotter mare’s 2nd LD and longest distance ridden. She did a fantastic job a few weeks ago at the Heart of the Hills ride (see prev. blog post), the end of which I thought she was fit enough for a 50. Boy, am I glad we did a 2nd LD first! Physical training is important but mental training is far more important and Leggs is still learning. The start was a little more chaotic just because there were so many more horses (36 starters compared to 14 during my Sat. ride). I thought I had picked a good place in the pack to start out but Legg’s had race brain! What happened to the wonderfully responsive mare I had during the first LD only a few weeks ago? After reflection I realized the Heart of the Hills ride had lots of rocks, ups and downs and single track twists and turns enclosed by trees, which provided natural breaks to keep a horse from going off to the races. The Shanghai trails were largely straight, flat, farm roads, easy to gallop on if your horse had the mindset. 

I should have worn gloves, and she may need a bit for the first loop (I ride in an S-hack). She learned to tuck her head in and down and from the side it might look like she has a nice arched neck but in reality is avoiding the ‘bit’ and hanging heavy on my hands. For the first 10 miles we were fighting, I made her stop and stand, back up, did lateral bending work to try to keep her mind on me instead of running to catch the other horses. She was a handful and I’ll be consulting my trainer on what else we can do to keep her more light and responsive. Eventually she got better, in part because we found a good riding buddy to keep pace with for the last 3 miles of the first loop.

Finished! With riding buddy coming in behind.
At the hold we learned the importance of having a buddy horse at the vet check. During the exam everything looked good except her CRI went from 60 to 80! The vets recognized she was probably just excitable/emotional and said we should come back for a recheck. Kenny brought Jazz up and Leggs immediately relaxed, yawned and started eating. We redid the CRI (with Jazz gaiting beside her) and everything checked out. I did have difficulty leaving ride camp (Leggs didn’t want to leave her buddy behind) but eventually we got out back on trail and we caught up with our previous riding buddy. For the 2nd loop she was great, went on a loose rein and responsive and we took our time and completed the ride with all A’s on the final vet check.

Re-hydrating with Kenny and Jazz for support.
While the final vet check is technically the end of the ride, all A’s on the vet card does not mean everything is automatically OK. It was 1-2 hours after we finished and I went to the post-ride meeting. Bobbie and Kenny noticed Leggs didn’t want to graze in hand, while Jazz was eating heartily. Her gums were tacky, not as moist as they should have been and heart rate was a little high at 60 bpm when it should be lower when just resting. The vets concurred she was dehydrated and put in 1.5 L of saline along with CMPK supplement with an IV infusion. She perked up and started eating. After the infusion we knew her system had recovered when she pee’ed! This really highlights the importance of observing your horse post-ride. If we had just packed up and left right away she may have coliced on the trailer during the 4 hr drive home and gone down hill fast. I’m very thankful to have great riding partners and mentors in Kenny and Bobbie.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Audrey’s Shanghai Trails Ride, Saturday 55-mile Ride

I’m separating the events of this ride into 3 posts to describe Friday Pre-Ride Catastrophe, Saturday 55-mile Ride and Sunday 30-mile Ride. Each day I learned a lot and hope to pass this on to other Green Beans.
Despite the events from Friday evening, I felt ok to ride on Saturday. The loose horses had left ride camp and our horses had remained on the trailer until about 1-2am when Kenny felt everything was ok and returned them to the pens. We had another potential catastrophe when Jazz kicked at Leggs during breakfast (they are ‘frenimies’, sometimes getting along and sometimes not). She got a hind foot stuck on the fence! Luckily the fence was not hot and she was tangled but not shocked. Once again quick action by the 3 of us diffused the situation: Bobbie kept Leggs calm, as her pen was quickly shrinking; I was at Jazz’s head keeping her calm, both her hind feet were wrapped in the fence; Kenny got the feet untangled and reset the fence. We added a corridor/space between the pens to prevent further antagonistic actions between the mares. Phew!
This was my 4th 50-mile ride on Jazz (aka Dancer’s Southern Princess) and while I got completions on the previous 3, we had various issues with: race brain at the start, riding too fast, lack of gut sounds, not eating at the holds, boots coming off, loss of momentum/energy on the last half. I had none of these problems this ride!
Heading back out after a hold.

There was little-to-no race brain at the start, in part because we had a longer warm-up since the start was delayed by 15 min. I ended up leaving 3rd just behind the leaders. This was not my initial strategy but when they finally called trail open, I was right there ready to go and didn’t want to wait 5 minutes for others to go out. Everyone was not clumped together and it was a nice relaxed start. I made sure not to ride too fast, checking my watch with an aim to maintain an overall avg 7mph pace for the ride. Multiple riders passed us the first loop but by this ride I knew my horse and that it was better to go slower than give in to the temptation to keep up with the faster Arabs. This ride she was eating like a champ on trail and at the holds, since her teeth had been floated after the Heart of the Hills ride (see prev. blog post). There were no boot issues due to a superb fitting by Kenny Weber (owner/crew) and I realized after the first loop, we didn’t need them. During the last half of the ride Jazz largely maintained her momentum because we found riding buddies. There was a point around 30 miles when we were alone and she had lost momentum and in her mind did not see the point in gaiting when she could walk instead and eat grass! Luckily two other riders caught up to us and all of a sudden she had motivation again to stay with the pack. The three of us continued as a group and completed the last 25 miles together. Impromptu riding buddies can really make a difference in a horse’s motivation, they are herd animals and the instinct to stay together seems stronger than pleasing the rider’s desire to maintain a decent pace, at least in Jazz’s case.
Finished! Bright eyed and looking good.
While it was a great ride, there are still some areas I need to improve on. Figuring out when to electrolyte during the ride is one of them. I carried a tube with me but didn’t give it because I was afraid if I did, she wouldn’t eat and then I’d have more problems with gut sounds. We did give some at the end of each hold and that seemed to work for this ride. But I’ve come to learn that every ride is different and we’ll see what the next ride brings!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Audrey’s Shanghai Trails Ride, Friday Pre-Ride Catastrophe

I’m separating the events of this ride into 3 posts to describe Friday Pre-Ride Catastrophe, Saturday 55-mile Ride and Sunday 30-mile Ride. Each day I learned a lot and hope to pass this on to other Green Beans.

This ride hammered home the importance of camp safety and what to do in an emergency situation. Quick thinking and acting by Kenny Weber, Bobbie Jo Lieberman (my ride crew and the horse owners) and myself, saved our horses and us from likely major injuries. At this ride weekend there were three horse fatalities, one occurred onsite and two were from horses that succumbed to injuries after being transported to the Wharton Equine Facility for treatment. No humans were physically injured.

The damaged car a horse ran into, with Leggs in the background
In short, several horses (>10) all from the same barn were corralled together in a single, large pen with electric fence. Friday evening the horses escaped the pen and were loose, galloping in an open field. Our campsite and our two horse pens were on the edge of this field. Though it was dark, I noticed the loose horses and we soon realized it was dangerous and escalating. I was about to go out and help catch some loose horses, which might have been ok if it was just one. But Kenny realized this was more serious and dangerous than one loose horse. Kenny prompted me to take Jazz (TWH mare) in hand, while he took Leggs (MFT mare) in hand and we got them out of the horse pens while Bobbie stayed in the LQ. One minute after we removed them from the pens, a horse ran into the car next to our pens (see picture), in the process spooking an adjacent horse that was tied to a trailer, who then pulled back hard from the trailer and was now loose; this horse was found later in the field with a broken neck. The horse that ran into the car was very badly injured and now was standing in one of our pens. Kenny got a hold of it until others came to take it to the vets. Bobbie was able to clear out the back of the trailer so we could load our horses. This all happened in 5 minutes! I learned that the safest (and by that I mean safer) places for your horses are in-hand (it helps if they respect/trust you and have been trained with good ground manners) and inside your trailer, meaning good trailer loading skills are a must! How you set-up your ride camp in relationship to those around you can be critical and building in safety blocks is important. 

Our rig setup with the 3-side Protection Rule for my tent
Building in protections for your rig set-up: We had some natural protections, which arguably may have helped us escape injury during this situation. Protection #1: the 3-side rule. I sleep in a tent and strategically placed it between the fence, the truck and my car such that it was protected on 3 sides (see picture). I have heard horror stories of loose horses trampling tents and now try to have it protected on 3 sides at every ride. Protection #2: we parked along a fence line, slightly away from most of the other rigs. The fence acted as a natural barrier for that side of the rig, however being adjacent to the open field in this case did not help us. Protection #3: Have the back of your trailer clear of ‘stuff’ so you can load your horses quickly. We did have a few items in the back, but Bobbie was able to clear it quickly so we could load the horses. If you sleep in the back of your trailer, just have a minimum amount of items and have it be easy to move if needed. Protection #4: Be able-bodied enough to handle excited/panicky horses or have friends who are able-bodied. Kenny and I were able to handle our excited horses. Bobbie (who has poor night vision and had a hip replaced two years ago) is not as able-bodied but between the three of us, we got it done.
The ride went on as planned and all of the horses were accounted for by Saturday afternoon. The ride manager, vets and volunteers did an excellent job treating and transporting horses. Despite a crazy start I had great rides on Saturday and Sunday, which I’ll post about next. This post is only meant to give my account of the incident and if you’d like to learn more about best horse containment practices there is currently discussion going on now on the AERC facebook group.