Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A New Hope...

Took a while to post this, as I had a full plate the last few weeks...but if you haven't heard the update, here goes.

About 3 weeks ago, my favorite vet (and one of the smartest out there IMHO :) ), Dr. Jen Powers, came over to vet our local endurance ride. At the same time, she came over some days early, to do dental (her specialty) work and any other stuff those of us out here in podunkville needed doing for our horses (or other animals too). I signed up to have my mare Eowyn's teeth done, and have Dr. Jen re-ultrasound Storm. She had looked at him about 3 weeks after his initial injury, and had figured out he likely had injured himself compensating for soreness in his other hind leg, from an old injury. His whole body was out of whack too, and she did some acupuncture and showed us some chiro stuff to do on him. She also did a full lameness eval and tried to figure out his supposed locking stifle issue (diagnosed by the local vet at the time of Storm's initial ultrasound, but without a lameness eval or anything..). She couldn't find anything that indicated this problem and we tossed that out. She was also much more hopeful for a recovery for Storm, though at the time she didn't have her ultrasound machine with her, for a full diagnosis.

Basically he got off til I was back from XP and then some, so he had about 6mos of pasture rest. Now, was the time to see what those 6 mos had done...what would his leg look like? How much had it healed and what would the future hold for him? Remember, per the local vet, Storm basically was done for and maybe, just maybe, could become a light trail riding horse. Endurance was likely out for good, or any other competitive event. All I had worked for, was out.

Dr.J gave Storm some happy juice...

"Ooohhhhhh.... I feel weeeiiirrrddd... What the heck was in that syringe?!"

How to teach a horse to ground tie: give happy juice, walk away... ;)

LOL... I always love the droopy lipped, stupid look on a tranqued horse... :)

Next, the legs get shaved for a clearer picture...

First the 'old injury' leg... (Eowyn is in the stocks in the background, letting HER happy juice kick in before getting her teeth all prettied up...)

And then the 'new injury'...still ground tied...good boy :) I love happy juice :)

Next, the good Doc starts imaging his legs...

Setting up the ultrasound machine and getting ready...

Hmmm... What do we see??? My heart was beating a mile a minute, while she was looking around in there...
The result? TOTALLY healed! Not even any scar tissue. In fact, if we didn't know better that it had been injured, she says she wouldn't be able to tell. All the fibers are clean, and lined up in the proper order... all the way through each tendon/ligament, up and down the leg. NOTHING is wrong anymore...
No freaking way! How awesome is that?!!?!!!!?? I so can NOT believe it, but am happy beyond words. Not only is he NOT broken anymore, but his endurance future is hopeful again :) WHOO FREAKING HOO!!!! :):):)
Then, for good measure, we checked the other leg too. Since Dr. J had suspected that compensating for the (prob. not healed properly to begin with, since he went to training in that Kentucky show barn, then came here and after a short break, was started trail riding, then conditioning for and competing in endurance...) old fence injury, likely caused his newer injury, it was a good idea to check it out and see if it was healed or not. If not, then it didn't matter what the other leg looked like, he'd still not be 100%. But, all was well. The 6 mos off gave BOTH legs the time they needed, to recover. This leg looked 100% too!! AWESOME!!

So what next? Dr. Jen started us right off on rehab riding. First 2 weeks are walking 30 minutes with only 10 minutes therein of gaiting work. Then the next 2 weeks we work up to 40 and 15. And then go from there. Later on, I'll also re-ultrasound to make sure things are going well (and good old fashioned checking the leg...any heat/swelling/soreness/etc and I back off again...).
Whoo hoo! I get to ride my boy again! :):):)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

All My Dreams, Torn Asunder....

Laney and I on Storm and Pip. Hard to imagine BOTH are KMSH... so different...yet so similar in many ways! :) It was SO fun getting to ride together!

And now for the serious part first... always best to start with the bad news...
I got back from the Eastern Mojave Scenic endurance ride over a week ago. I have struggled with how to write this blog, writing a paragraph here and there, then going away for a day. I just couldn't get it done... All of my hopes and dreams that all you, dear readers, were going to follow here, have likely just ended. Maybe, maybe not, but statistics (and a very empty pocket book on my account, not allowing for 'fancy treatments') seem to pan out on the less than optimistic side. Some of you will have already seen on Facebook or one of the email lists I am on, what has happened. But for those who haven't, here is the sum up.
Basically, Firestorm is broken. His right hind suspensory ligament (and to some degree his superficial flexor tendon as well) is damaged. He likely also has damage to his left hind too (from external exam...we only ultrasounded the right as that was the leg he'd been lame on, and either way treatment would be the same for both, so pocket book said to skip USing the left). There was some scarring in the there already (from the timeline and 'age' of it, all I can guess is maybe when he got in a fence right before going to Kentucky, or something that happened in Kentucky right one will ever know, since the horse can't tell us of course) and there were all sorts of 'build up' things in there. IE: something stressed the leg (see last sentence?) and it never healed right or just wasn't fully injured to show. Then it was stressed again, and again, and again... (he was subjected to who knows what in KY, and beings they were labeling him as a 'rank and bucking stallion', those gymnastics themselves may have hurt something in there). Then add stressers from endurance conditioning and riding onto already 'weakened' legs, and you have of course a recipe for disaster. Eastern Mojave was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back (and I think I even know the very moment that straw was laid down, as my ride report will tell).
Added to this, he "may" (SO many gaited horses have this and are tootling around happy and sound into their 20's, even having been broke as 2yos, that I kinda doubt it is the real issue) have been "predisposed" to this happening. Vet says he is slightly sickle hocked (as most gaited horses are for greater reach...and I looked at a ton of photos of him and watching him in his stall, it really is 'slight' you have to go looking for it when he is standing 'square') and this straightens him through the stifle, which............causes locking stifles in him. WTF? NO ONE else has EVER pointed this out to me, and he has been through how many vet checks now?? Sighhh... wish it were told to me sooner (I didn't really see it before this, though am told a horse 'dropping out the hips' while ridden is a common sign...he does do that occasionally, but all my horses have over the years and never did it seem horridly out of order, so wasn't a red flag to me...sighhh). I may have had several choices to fix this before it 'may' (or not) have led to this issue. This didn't really clear up any cause/effect questions (again, no real knowledge of all his past, and TONS of gaited horses are built, some even to a 'bad conformation' degree, like him and never have issues)...whoopie. I just love having tons of room to second guess how horrible an owner I may or may not have been for doing e-riding on him...or not... GAH!
At any rate, what it now all boils down to, is 2 months stall/paddock rest and walking, then USing again and evaluate from there, and LOTS of time off (a year is best) to heal. Then see what happens. Vet seems to think trail riding soundness will be just fine (and maybe something like Trail Trials or other less taxing endeavors), but for long term endurance riding soundness, he is much, much less optimistic. Great...

Anyway, back to EMS....We DID have fun while the fun lasted :)
Got there a day and a half before the ride started. Had Storm's daughter, Ari (see some past posts on the blog about her) in tow, as her NEW OWNER was going to pick her up at the ride (Congrats to ANNIE GEORGE on her new Glide Ride endurance is a perfect match! She loves em tall, I don't...she likes starting youngsters and has the time and skills for it, I just no longer care to...etc). I have known her for a while now, and she rides like I do (ie: is in it for miles and longevity, not speed) and she takes GREAT care of her horses. So I am confident Ari will be in a very safe and loving home. :) So she got to come and camp with us at EMS for a few days.

It sure made life interesting, as Storm was a tad obsessed with her (very odd, as he usually is good about ignoring mares...but he really WANTED his little girl...damned pedophile! LOL) and we had to juggle going in and out of the trailer on the way, how to camp, and listen to him 'talking' all day (thankfully he settled down at night). When she was picked up, he just had the BIGGEST hissy fit. I had to hobble him AND tie him to the trailer, so he wouldn't rear and jump around and basically mess up his bad leg more. SO weird...never seen him act this way with any mares before (and I even have had mares in heat trailer and ride with him!). But once she was gone, he went right back to his 'normal' self.

Anyway, got to the ride and set up in record time. We now have three Hie-Ties on our trailer. It was SO easy to just flip out the arm, hook up a rope, and set out buckets and hay nets. Much easier than the old electric fence (though that is still nice for a grassy camp, to set up a 'pasture' for them to eat on). Here is the setup:

The two boys did great on it next to each other. I doubt anyone in camp that didn't know us, even realized that a stallion was on the trailer next to Oli. They shared food nicely and never got into a tussle. Though on the day we were leaving camp, Oli apparently was recovered from his hard riding and bored....he thought it would be fun to goad Storm into some 'boy games' (ie biting and rearing at each other). He does this at home or in other camps, over the tops of electric fences. Or turned out with Storm in an arena. He doesn't realize that Storm is way bigger than him, and that REAL boys often play rough. So we usually break up the game before they get into trouble. And the highline is NOT the place to do that! Storm popped a front leg over his rope rearing, came down, and then was loose (luckily no one else in camp anymore)! The velcro gave (good to know it will with enough force) and then I had to round him up, before he went running around like a nut case (he was way too full of it, after 5 days at the trailer). Since I was right there, I followed him to the nearest hay pile he found to pick through, and caught him back up.
Oooiii...least they waited for trouble til after the ride :) Other than that, it worked flawlessly!

Our friend Laney came not long after we were set up. She brought HER 'new' (had him maybe a year now) Mtn horse, Pip...for his first rides.
Pip at Laney's trailer on the snow morning...he's so cute!

And that night our other friend Carla pulled up behind us too. Along with lots of other ppl we knew in camp, it was making out to be a fun ride week. :) Oh and Becky Lange and her Mtn Horse Mocha Jack were also we had a great Mtn horse showing there.
Becky and Mocha... another short, cute Mtn Horse that kicks butt! :)
Here are all three of use together :) This and the last pic are by Laney's friend Patty, who took lots of great pics of us. :)
Two nice ones of Storm and I....

And a few great ones of Laney and Pip :)

Since Laney hadn't done any rides on Pip yet, and he wasn't in condition yet, she wanted a nice, easy ride. I was fine with that and we decided to ride together. This meant that I was riding even slower than I already do (go figure that he 'breaks' at a ride I am taking it as easy as possible at, and still finish in time!) and just walking or slow gaiting a lot.

Here we are on trail... (Photo by Steve Bradley)

It was GREAT, as finally Storm was matched with a horse that went the same pace he did! With trotters, and even some other, faster gaiting horses, he just can't keep up in a good gait. So he tends to step pace a lot. When I ride alone, he gaits much better, but he dislikes...and I mean HATES...that, so I just don't do it often anymore. Just not much fun for either of us. But Pip was the PERFECT speed...we did some slow Runwalking, or picked it up just a tad and did a beautiful rack! It was SOOOOO fun!
And again.... note the footfall is NOT his usual step pace :) (Photo by Steve Bradley)

I am so sad now, that I won't be able to spend many miles of the Big XP trail, riding with Pip! It would have been a blast. Oh well :( I likely still will on Eowyn, as she is a slow trotter and won't be in great shape yet. But it's just not the same as gliding along on the big boy!
And the last...let's hope they are not truly his LAST endurance photos... (Photo by Steve Bradley)

Pip behaved himself fairly well, only getting excited and acting up a few times when we picked up some speed, at which point I would slow back down and all was well. He has the usual 'ho-hum' mellow Mtn Horse attitude in so many ways though... right at the start, his girth was a tad loose and we were handwalking, and Laney tells me to stop...I turn around, and here is Pip, big old Tucker western saddle, hanging off his side.... like almost under his belly! And he is just standing there waiting for Laney to fix it (which took a bit, as the girth billet strap had tightened way up from the pull of the saddle...). Later, he decided to walk over the top of a nasty Cholla cactus hidden in some scrub grass, and got a BIG stick of it on the front of one of his front legs. Again, he just stood there patiently, while we tried to figure out how to get it off. Laney finally had to take her rumprug (had a nice, thicker goretex-type material on the outside layer) of the saddle, and use it to grab it. Then I pulled some remaining spines out of his leg, while she hooked everything back up. I so love these horses!
We had seen Terri a few times earlier in the day, but couldn't ride at her pace, so she'd get up ahead agian. We thought we were last, when HERE COMES TERRI behind us...huh?? LOL. Turns out she missed a turn and had to backtrack, and then got behind us. So again we had to separate (which every time, Storm had wanted to go with of course, since Oli was his buddy). Oiii... This time Storm was ok with it though! Guess he finally figured out Pip was his buddy for the day.
Onward we went at our easy pace, until the vet check. And just as we saw the VC pop up, there was Terri again too! Kinda good though, as Laney had decided Pip had done really well so far, but was getting a little tired. And she wanted him to have fun and also do a few more days. So she was going to pull at the vet check and just ride 25 miles (or whatever it was to the VC) every day, instead of forcing a full 50 on Pip. I thought that was a fabulous idea and he'd probably do great that way, for his first rides. :) So Terri and I hooked up again at the VC. Since we were the last riders, Annie wanted us to pull some ribbons off a section of trail that wasn't going to be used the rest of the week. That was fine with us, as it is always fun playing 'get that ribbon' (trot/gait by and grab it, if not, the other person gets a shot). Course what we always forget, is that Mojave plants are very prickly! And of course whoever marked it, sure LOVED putting ribbons in Joshua trees... So we often had to stop and ccaaarrreeefully pluck the ribbon out of the spines. LOL... Still was fun, and not a long section, so it didn't cost us any time.
We kept a fairly mellow pace back towards camp, walking, occasionally cantering up a slight incline, and sometimes gaiting along. Storm was feeling great and we were all having a grand time.
In one of the washes, headed for the road crossing, we were up on top and out of the wash (way too much deep sand down below) on the nice, single track trails up there. Just tootling along, winding between the Joshuas. Oli was flying in his trot, and Storm couldn't really keep up as cantering would have been too fast in there and his gait was too slow. So he kept falling behind and then getting really mad at me. He decided to solve that problem by spooking sideways and then throwing in a little buck (not anything serious, in fact I laughed at him and told him to knock it off, and kept going). In retrospect, I think THIS is the moment he hurt himself. Coming out of the buck, he landed in a discombobulated mess of legs (ie he couldn't figure out if he was gaiting, cantering, or what...legs were going every which way, in forward motion, but that was about it) for a few seconds. So I pulled him out of his weird gait and brought him back to a 'normal' gait, then caught up with Terri. About 45 mins to an hour later, was when I first thought something 'just ain't right'. Nothing specific even then, just that he wasn't giating quite rite. But it was getting late into the ride, so I figured he was just tired. Another 15-20 mins later, and then I felt the "OH CRAP!" of a dropping hip...down...............down.............down... It wasn't consistent with every stride of the bad leg, or in general (like he'd stop for a while, then there it would be again) but it was there. I had Terri look too when I was sure it was there, and she saw it too! Funny thing, we both swear it was on the LEFT leg (my left hip dropped as his did), but at the VC it was the right leg (though the next day another rider watching him walk around, also thought she saw the left leg hitch...which also lends credence to the theory of my vet, that likely BOTH legs have issues, not just the right. Ick!)
At this point it was late, sun had gone down, and we were maybe 5 miles from camp. So mostly we walked. Storm would try and catch up with Oli at a gait (Oli walks FAST), and it was like he would 'warm' out of the offness when he did that. First few steps off, then back to an inconsistent thing. This made me think that maybe he was just cramping up from the cold, like he did at Desert Gold. So I really wasn't all too worried. He was totally willing to go (he was asking to catch up, and when we turned onto the road for home, I kept having to rein him back as he wanted to gait back home, not walk) and didn't feel bad or anything.... Course looking back, I should have likely gotten off and walked back or found a place for the trailer to pick us up, or something.... But he was sound at a walk, and not really that off at a alarm bells had gone off making me think I had a lame horse! So I just slowly road him the rest of the way to camp.

Back in camp, it was really dark now and cold. We were the last riders of course, and while we stood just a little for the vet to come over and then do vitals and such, Storm cooled down and stiffened up (I was standing in front of him, holding him, and then in front for the trot out, so didn't 'see' how he was standing/moving). I told the vet that he felt off out on trail and see what she thought. Went to do the trot out, and he was really off (didn't want to gait)! Turned him around, went the other way, and he warmed enough to gait (so I STILL hoped 'cramp', since he was warming out of it). She says right leg (which of course was news to me, as Terri and I thought left), went to look at it, and it was already puffing up in the high suspensory area and was sensitive to palpation. She gave me that news, along with 'It will likely look worse tomorrow' and that we should ice, bute, and wrap if we can. CRAP! As we turned to walk back to the trailer, he had really stiffened while we talked things over, and now he was REALLY gimping at a walk I felt bad I didn't think it was 'serious' on trail (note: if you think the horse is even SLIGHTLY off, treat it as if it is dead lame on trail... unless you find something obvious like a rock, rub, or cut or something). Course if the horse doesn't act that lame, you don't generally panic...
Back at the trailer, I iced (really wished we had ice boots...course we don't have a freezer, so the boots wouldn't stay iced for more than half a day anyway!) by making a loose wrap around his hock/upper cannon and shoving crushed ice in it. Had to hold it on though, or it would keep sliding down his leg. Then wrapped with a clay poultice. Wrapping that high up is do it right, you need THREE polos/standing wraps... one on the leg like normal for a poultice, then a second that starts midway up that and goes to just below the hock, then a third that goes up and over the hock and around below it, midway over that second wrap (think a figure 8). THEN you have to figure out how to get the wrap tight enough that it supports and stays where it is (liked to slide off the hock), but loose enough it doesn't bind the tendon/lig that is over the top of the hock (and that one tenses differently, then the ones that tense below...sighh... so I had to make him stand a certain way to see where it was at the tensest, while wrapping it). Let me tell you, by the end of the ride week, I really got a handle on how to wrap a rear leg up high, LOL :)
He got bute and while Terri went to the ride meeting, I sat around second guessing and feeling sorry for my (his too) self, LOL. Nothing like having a broken horse! But eventually got over that bit. Kinda :)
The next day Terri went off on Oli (she went to finish all four days on a sound and happy horse as usual...we all need a horse like Oli...he just simply won't quit or break!) and I spent the day taking care of Storm and getting Ari out of my hair. Annie had arrived the prior evening, while we were still on trail, but she was so whooped from the drive (and the tail end of a bout with pneumonia), that she had gone straight to bed. So when she was able to crawl out of the next morning, she took a look at Storm (and was quite delighted with how magnificent he was in person) and then Ari (who she also remarked on as wonderful, of course.. even better than their pics, both of them). Then we did all the paperwork and horse sales stuff over coffee. Soon after we loaded up Ari (who loaded real well, even in a totally unfamiliar trailer and configuration... she'd never been in one with a rear tack) and off she went (She had a LONG two day drive to get home again). Storm pitched a TOTAL fit when we loaded up Ari! Never saw him act like that. Screaming his head off, dancing around on the hie-tie (I then tied him to the trailer), and even trying to buck/rear. I had to hobble him to keep him quiet, so he wouldn't hurt himself more! So bizarre...guess he was saying DON'T TAKE MY DAUGHTER! He really never was around her while I had them both...last he'd seen of her before this trip (and of course both were tied on opposite sides of the trailer in camp, so he never 'saw' her much there either, really), was once on a mutual trailer ride to the vets for vaccinations, and other than that, a glance in the 'baby pasture' when she was a foal and both were at Amber's. Makes one wonder, eh? Since he sure hasn't acted like that with any other mares I have had around or out of heat.

Anyway, that day was spent icing and wrapping him periodically, then later in the afternoon when the vet got back from the lunch stop, I took him up for a re-evaluation. She was pleasantly surprised at the change. Swelling/sensitivity was gone, lameness mostly improved, and overall a totally different picture than the night before. Had her (and me) hoping that maybe things were NOT that bad. After talking about it and reminding her that he was going on the Big XP, she did say we should have him checked out in a good lameness exam/ultrasound evaluation. See what was going on in there, instead of guessing. Meanwhile, we'd treat as if it was a messed up ligament just in case. So bute, ice, and stall (trailer in this case) rest til we got to the USing vet.
This pretty much was how the rest of my week went. Wrap, ice, wrap, leave wrap off a while, ice, etc... In camp, it was COLD and WINDY most the time. So in between taking care of Storm, I huddled in the camper reading and trying to stay warm. Whoopie, fun weekend.... The only fun part was crewing for Terri :) I'd get all of Oli's stuff ready for her when she'd come in (one day VC was in camp) and then help get him all set up for the night. Clean and organize camp, etc. If it had been sunny and warm (well, sun was out most the days, just not warm cause of the wind), I'd likely had enjoyed sitting out and relaxing. Next ride I suppose!
One nice thing: After a week in the dry sand, the boys had great looking feet again. Here are some shots of them on the last day hanging out in camp.

Down in tandem....the hie-ties seem to be working great! I think we have the length down.

Back hoofer on Storm...

Back hoofers on Oli...

Both on Storm...dirty :( But at least you can get the idea...least his feet aren't broken :)

Front hoofers on Oli....

Both on Oli....He had Easyboot Glueons on all week (5 days with the day we glued them on) and we used the Vettec Adhere. Pulled them off the night of his last ride day (night before the pic). They are SO easy to glue on and take off now. And the feet looked great when I pulled them!

At the end of the week, we stayed an extra day, then packed up and headed home. The ponies spent the day sleeping and eating and just enjoying the day off (Storm hadn't done much that week, but was unhappy that Oli was on trail every day, so didn't rest as well as he could have). He made up for it this day, sleeping along with Oli most the day :)

Storm 'eating dirt'...totally out and drooling ;)

And then down for the full nap.....

Looks like he's giving me the hoof...well, it IS the middle digit... doesn't like all the picture taking interrupting his beauty sleep I guess! :)

It was a two day drive and the first night we stayed at a new place in Bakersfield. Marci Cunnigham was kind enough to open her home and barn to us, and let us stay with her for the first night. We went out to a great little pizzeria/Italian place for dinner and the next morning she LOADED us up with citrus of all kinds from her trees! MMMMMMM.. THANKS for having us! :) Then for the second night, we stopped at one of our usual places. Horse Motel Waltenspiel in Healdsburg, with Ruth W. As always, this is a great stop over for the boys. Thanks!! And the Souzas were there as well, on their way down to 20 Mule Team. Their daughter, Jennifer was there as well when we pulled in (D and J were already to bed I think in their trailer) and helped us shuffle horses around, so Storm and Oli could have nice, dry, inside stalls, so Storm would stay confined and quiet in a smaller spot.
"Dude....this reminds me of Kentucky...Let me out, man! I'll behave, I promise!"

"Can't help ya there... not my fault you are broken... Get used to this!"

She also told me about her horse that had a similar (and also in varying tendons/ligaments and I think also both legs?) injury and what they did to get him over it. She says 'he'll never do 100's again, but he is now being ridden again'...well heck, except Tevis and it's prep, I really wasn't planning on 100's anyway. So maybe there is hope? Who knows! :)
I had made an appointment with the vet for the afternoon we got home, and we timed the drive to just drive on by there on the way back to Terri's. At this point I was still hopeful he had just smacked himself (in the buck/spook episode), and hadn't actually pulled anything, since he looked so good in camp and on the trip. But no, that was not to be, as the beginning of the blog all describes. :( When one is in the vet's office, and the 'hmmm, that's not good' type comments start happening (along with LONG silences while looking at the US screen), your heart just sinks to your feet. And then when you get to see the happenings on the screen with the accompanying explanations, it just gets worse. So that was definitely a downer day.
We went home, Terri dropped me off at my place and then she took Storm and Oli back to hers. For the night, he'd be locked in one of the smaller pens, since no mares (those pens are adjacent to the main pasture, in which we often have mares) were at her place right now. Then the next morning I would pick him up after I got my truck back (which was also broken, and in the shop while I was gone...sighhh... STILL not working right either, as it never acted up for the mechanics, so they were a tad baffled), and take him to Tracie's place (where Ari lived) and put him in Ari's old stall. THAT was a turn of luck...we really don't have a good place to lay him up at Terri's, since his stall floods in bad weather (and of course we are now back to a month of RAIN...sighhh...). This makes it much easier on me to do all the icing/walking/stall chores, as she only lives half a mile down my road. MUCH better than driving up to Trinidad several times a day, and if the truck did break again, I could always walk if I had to.
So now here we are, about a week into his layup. Life in that department is getting to be routine and he seems to be adapting well to stall life. The stalls look out onto the pastures at her place, so are well lighted and he can watch the other horses all day. I have him set up with two full hay nets with those small mesh holes, that he has to pick at. So it takes him a long time to finish them (I fill them once a day, and they still have a few handfulls left at the next feeding) and it is just boring grass hay. It gives him something to do and keeps his tummy happy. He likes his walks, though seems bored with the same old walk around the arena. If I can figure out how to wrangle the girls (has to go through two paddocks with mares to get to the 'outside' of the property), I want to start taking him on walks around the neighborhood (rural horsey area here, not a ton of traffic, and lots of side dirt roads) instead to liven things up. I'll keep some pics and updates going too, though nothing much will be all that interesting until we get to the 2 month re-evaluation and eventual riding rehab down the road some ways.
Dozing away in camp on our last day...dreaming of future rides? Nahhh...just some pretty girls most likely :)

Watching Laney and everyone else leave on the snow day...he's not happy having to stay in camp all week :(....

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Year in Review

Well, now that Storm has finished his first season of endurance riding, I figure I should write up a little review. He's come a long way from when I got him 18mos or so ago, as a supposed 'bucking, rank, untrainable stallion'...rrriigghhttt.. Never did see that horse, and doubt I ever will :) We went from an out of shape, and mostly pacing horse, to a fit and decently gaiting horse that is a blast to ride.
Here are our stats for the 2010 year, Starting with Death Valley, and ending with Desert Gold:
Rides attempted: 11
Rides completed: 10
Pulls: 1 (RO-L)...I pulled him at Desert Gold when he came up lame, with a muscle cramp on the
trail. Vet didn't see it by the time we got to the check, but I figured better safe than sorry...
50's: 1
LDs: 9
Multi-Days: 3
Total miles: 300 (250 LD)

Things that changed:
-HR at rides went down both at check in (form the mid 50's to often in the mid 40's, sometimes
all the way down to high 30's)
-HR at vet checks improved (from high 50's to usually a 48 now)
-he got hotter as he got fitter (we need to work on other horses passing and leaving him..he
wants to catch them all now! LOL)
-his gaits significantly improved as he got fitter, as did the length of time he could stay in them

Things I learned:
-saddle type is important to fit for him. He tends to do better in a saddle that works with how his
back changes in varying gaits. We tried a good number of saddles, and the Wintec dressage
(500) seems to be working the best.
-he does not need a lot of electrolytes, but he DOES need them, particularly on warmer rides.
-he takes GREAT care of himself...drinks at every (even early) water and eats like a pig.
-a bored horse is a spooky horse
-Storm is GREAT at fooling me into thinking he has less gas in the tank than he does. He is in
way better shape than I give him credit for...he likes it that way, as he can do easy and LD rides,
instead of harder rides and moving up to 50's. I have his number now though and that's over
with! LOL :)
-I need to be more careful in cold/wet weather with him...get a bigger rump rug!
-Easyboot Gloves work like a charm on him and he has awesome bare feet! Best of our herd.

Here is a video I made for Storm. I have horrid editing skills (only my second video), but it was fun to make anyway :) Enjoy! He sure IS my "loving one man show".....
Edit: well shit! Stupid You-tube took out my audio..I even PAID for the damned audio track! I have to figure out how else to upload the video...and it is a huge file (took 2hrs to put it on youtube...) suggestions??
Edit 2: Well, youtube can stick it...Vimeo rules! :)

Strom 2009/2010 from Natalie Herman on Vimeo.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Death Valley and Storm's Graduation Ride (part 3)

From sunset, to sunrise, day4 of the Death Valley Encounter was a smacking success!
The ONLY pose I have with Storm in his hat, not looking mad! LOL :)

Ok, now on to the pretty pictures post :) Part three, the graduation :) As noted in part 2, at the ride meeting, we found out the trail would go up into and to the top of the Slate Range again. there is a radar station up on top of one of the high peaks...that was to be our destination. Then back down the mountain, through the desert, and into camp for a lunch hold. Once more into the desert to the waterfall at Indian Joe's, and then back to camp for the finish. A good test to see if Storm really was ready to bump up to 50s, especially after the 30 he did the day before. I was going to ride with Terri and go for a nice, easy, back of the pack ride.
Again, up early and getting ponies ready, it felt good to be up to go RIDE again :) We left camp handwalking and after most the last stragglers passed us, we got on and walked a while more to really warm up the ponies. The trail went backwards from the previous day, up the canyon to the water trough. Storm figured out where we were going after not too long up the canyon, and tried to stop and even turn around a few times. Hmm...too smart for his own good...guess he knew today was more UP and was thinking it was a stupid idea to do all that he did yesterday...AGAIN... LOL.. Well too bad, we were doing it :) He tanked like a good horse at the water, and I reapplied his desitin. Then we wandered into the Mtns some more (I had expected we'd turn off the old trail here, but no...hmmmm how far up will we go??) and went up and up. Storm at one of our first rest stops...he doesn't want to pose nicely, LOL..grumpy ears!
One of the many views of the Panamaint Range and Valley

We stopped and took some pictures, then up some more. Finally, we turned off the old trail, and went along the top of the slates, heading in the direction of the radar mtn.

Oliver and Terri posing at one of our scenic spots...

And Storm, not as into posing...LOL

We ran into a few really scenic spots, went up and down some fun little trails, and as we were climbing up yet another big hill, we saw someone back behind us.
More pretty views, and yes, that is the trail that seems to drop off the mtn there, LOL.

Huh...thought we were the last 50s! as the figure came closer and closer, I recognized was Janet and Ladybug! She caught up with us as we were taking a break on a particularly steep section. Turns out she was the one and only LD that day, and her 4th day out on Ladybug. Great :) She hooked up with us, and we rode all the way to the radar tower together.

Storm heading up the hill...(Photo by Steve Bradley)

There were a few really cool single track trails winding up the last mountain, and some scenic views to die for, and Steve Bradley was up on top of one of the best. He got some great shots of us all!

Setting up for a good pose...Susan's crew bought this pic too, they loved it so much and how it had the view in back...(Photo by Steve Bradley)

And finally posing...for once Storm is cooperating :) (Photos by Steve Bradley)

Then up another steep climb, and over more rocky and fun single track...felt like we were mountain goats climbing some far away trail...well, maybe not a goat, but I WAS on a Mountain HORSE and we were on a faraway trail I suppose :)

Up the trail we go...way up to the top is where we have to head to...

View of the trail we came over, back behind us...It is really a nice motorcycle trail...not the goat trail it looks like :)

This is one of the things I love about endurance...the cool, faraway places we get to discover. So up and up some more we went, and finally got on top next to the radar station.

The radar station up ahead, and a view from the trail...

Here, the trail petered out onto a rocky jeep road, that went down...down....down... Janet moved on out on Ladybug, and Terri and I got off and handwalked. And walked...and walked... ....sighhh...this is the boring part of endurance, LOL...when the scenic trail ends, and you pop out on some gravel road. After some miles of walking, it popped onto a single track trail that went straight down a ridgeline, Terri managed to slip negotiating the slope, and twisted her ankle. OW! But we still had a ways to go. The ridgeline dropped us into a pretty little canyon, that eventually went all the way DDOOWWWNNNNN to the desert floor again. After climbing over rocks ledges and other interesting obstacles.
I always thought I should enter my horses in those 'extreme cowboy races'...we wipe the place clean...I laugh at the indoor 'trail' course they set up in arenas with fake waterfalls and fake creeks and much of what we negotiate (especially on Duck rides, which are a far cry from groomed bridle paths), is many times harder than these 'extreme' trails these races have, LOL... And I LOVE it. I know a lot of people complain about 'technical trails. Me?? I get bored on easy jeep road or groomed woods trails. I like clinging to the sides of mountains like a goat, and climbing over logs and ledges. It makes life much more interesting. Course it makes for a much slower ride (least if you like your horse), but you get much more variety and often these trails lead to great scenery!
Well, we finally got down the mountain and into the desert, and then had to take an oddly roundabout way back to camp...going way OUT and away, then basically doubling back again, before heading back into camp...sighhh...I hate going in circles just to make mileage, LOL..give me more goat trails any day! :) We let the horses boogie where the sand was decent footing, and walked the deeper washes. Soon we saw the road back into camp, and walked the rest of the way in. Both Oli and Storm looked and felt great, and after tanking at the water trough, pulsed right down. So back to the trailer for lunch we went.
The evening before, Karen Chaton was handing out party hats for the horses, to be worn today since it was New Year's Eve. A fun way to celebrate! I had planned on getting it on Storm's bridle that morning, but we were running late as usual, so I left off of that and found time at the lunch hold instead. Storm looked totally adorable in his, but seemed none too pleased with the whole deal. I guess it wasn't very studly to be wearing a party hat, LOL :) Too bad, it was going to stay on the rest of the ride!

AAAAWWWW...Isn't he ADORABLE?!?!...Squeeaaaalll!!!! ;)

This is what he thinks of the whole hat thing....

That's ok, I love you anyway...KISSES... (His eyes speak volumes...Stupid Human!) :) LOL...

I checked and fixed up his foot, and after eating something, went to brush him down a little....WTF?! He had some swelling and heat in his armpit! Dangnabbit! Looked like the beginning of a girth gal. But just like at Cuneo Creek earlier this year, his girth goes no where NEAR that area...after thinking on it a little and checking where it was happening (WAY up front in the pits, in the folds of skin there), I think his long winter hair was just getting sweaty and gross and the folds were rubbing on each other. So I cleaned it all off (might shave it a little, to normal summer-length for the next ride) and rubbed in a bunch of Bickmore's (did the trick like a charm at Cuneo) got a different, fleece girth (just in case, covered that basis as well), and tacked him up at the end of our hold. I also left the girth really loose (we were just going to go ride around the flatter desert on a shorter loop than the first, no goat climbing left) and hoped for the best. Oli had a rub going on under the ring of his breast collar, so she left it off for round two and we Bickmored it too. That about killed my tub of it, so I'll have to get more...I need to by stock in it...LOVE that stuff!Sometimes the old remedies still work the best :)
So after tacking up, we headed over to the vet, and all was cleared for takeoff again. We hopped on and walked off into the desert for loop two. The first part was a little square out behind camp, towards a gravel pit from the day before...then across the road that leads to camp (the horses were NOT happy crossing it...they turned straight for home, LOL), to head out across the Searles Valley. The trail was mostly a gradual and easy rise towards the foothills on the opposite side of the valley. We had nice views of the Slates, with the much taller Panamaints peeking over the top of the range, covered in snow.

The view we had of the Slates and the Panamaints creeping over the top...

Lots of sand and scrubby brush.As we went and lots of water stops on this loop (much easier to provide water, when there are actual roads! LOL..wonder if anyone will invent a water bucket holder and water container, that would schlep well on, or behind a dirt bike on a single track trail? LOL :) Being winter, it was ok though. But the boys did enjoy getting lots to drink on this loop, or maybe just the excuse to hang out and chill at the water troughs? Yes, that was likely the real goal....
Both horses seem to be saying: "Dude....are we there yet??" LOL....

As we wandered the desert, Oliver all of a sudden got real alert to something...Storm was oblivious, though, and then Terri said "LOOK! Donkeys!" There was a small herd of three wild burros off in the distance. They stood watching up, as we got closer and closer...Oliver really was wound tight, and Storm was STILL oblivious...LOL... Then all of a sudden they moved around a little, and one of them blew and snorted a few times fairly loud. THEN he figure it out..and his eyes bugged out of his head and neck arched...and Oliver followed suite and both did great Arab imitations ;). They alternated between creeping down the trail this way, and slamming on the breaks...not wanting to get closer to the dreaded, long eared, horse eating desert monsters...LOL. Terri and I on the other hand were laughing at the wimpy boys and cooing over how cute the burros were. Finally the burros moved off, and we continued down the took several miles though, before the boys stopped being wound tighter than a piano wire.

Can you spot the burros in the pic below? Storm couldn't...good camo on them! Nature sure is perfect when it gets to work as designed :)
There they are! Aren't they cute?!!

Onward we went, walking or moving out as we felt, and slowly heading for a 'finger' on the map, that would then double us back (ugg..another dopey random trail thing, LOL..) to almost where we were, but up in the foothills instead.

One of the many, long and sandy roads we traveled...

I was bored...playing with shadows....Storm's looks almost like a unicorn! Ok...a bit us a stunted unicorn (more calcium, maybe?)...but still! I can dream, right? :)

Tucked in the hills was the hidden treasure of our journey through the valley. Great Falls (as the Duck calls it), also know as Indian Joe's... Susan said when she was a kid, her girl scout troop would come up here in the summer to get in the shade of the mountain and get to hang out in the water and stuff. She said it got it's name from an older guy, Indian Joe, that supposedly lived somewhere up there and lived off of eating the burros and having access to the water there. Hmmm... interesting! LOL.

Tucked way up under those hills is Indian Joe's....

Storm doing a nice little Runwalk to catch up to Oli, almost at the waterfall...

This was a neat little spot...the hillsides had a neat formation up there, in kind of a jumble of rock, and there was a small waterfall coming off the side of the mountain, to drop into a pool and trickle out in a small creek.

Is this the neatest jumble of rocky hillside you have seen, or what?

Jumble up close...

In years before it was a VERY small waterfall, pool, and creek...but after the rains this year, it was a nice size. Very quiet and pretty :)
The horses enjoyed another good drink, but Storm at this point was really hungry (he normally likes to snatch grass and such on the trailside at other rides, to fuel himself throughout the day). He snatched at a bush and started chewing on it...hmmm..I tried to take it away (kinda prickly branches with nothing much on it), but he went for more...well, if he likes it that much??? Poor guy...he had a very disappointed look on his face...the flora in the desert was not exactly satisfying!

Plenty here to drink...and clear as any water could be!
But food??? Not so much...what a look...That bush is what he is eating...

"It's your fault Oli...somehow, I know it is!"

"Oh, buck up sunny, and act like the REAL endurance horse you are today!"
After a rest there, we headed out of the shadow of the mountain, back into the desert. Or tried to... we could SEE the edge of the shadow out there...and the warm sunlight beckoning (it was MUCH colder in the shade at this point in the day...bbbrrrrrr....). But try as we might (ok, so we didn't exactly gallop after it, LOL), the shadows lengthened faster than we could get out of them. Sighhh...oh well...

Running around in the desert...sun is leaving us! Oli is flying along in his trot, Storm kept having to canter to catch up. But we had lots of FUN! :)

The horses were happy, as we were headed back in the direction of home now, and they picked up to some fun gaiting. Then, where we thought we'd turn onto a straight shot road back, the ribbons turned off and headed parallel to camp, and into the desert some more! Dang nabbit! We stayed in this direction for a while, then headed on a road that again looked to take us to camp....only to once again have ribbons turn us away and further away from camp. The ponies (and riders) were not pleased! Oh out and around the desert some more, then finally across the highway and onto a parallel road, that DID head for camp (map confirmed it...hated to pull it out, but was wanting no more surprises! I was ready to be done, and Storm was a little tired and bored too...though not beat or overly tired..yes!). The sun had gone down behind the mountains at this point and we had been riding in the dusk for a little bit...looked like we'd make it back just before it actually got dark..yeah! Too cold to be poking around in the dark out here...
With maybe 2 miles at most to go, we kept things down to a fast walk and leisurely made our way back to camp with nice, cooled off horses. At the finish, we found the vet and got our completion exam, and all was GOOD! Whoo hoo! Storm was officially finished with his first, real 50! He now has graduated to the level of a 'real' endurance horse (well, least in many ppl's eyes...personally, I still say LDs are real endurance too...I know too many horses that CAN'T do the distance, no matter what ppl say about pulling horses out of pastures and just going, or 'any' horse can do it... the LDs are easier in distance, but it still is DISTANCE and timed...and in a way they are also harder, as you have to ride smarter to finish correctly and in time, unless you are racing).

Smart boys...both took naps quite a bit the next day :)

Storm still had at least 1/4 of a tank of gas left, likely even more (as he has often proved he is very adept at energy conservation and acting SOOOOOO TIIIRRRREEEDD, then bouncing around when he wants to, LOL). So after 80 miles of decently tough riding in two days, with a foot that was still not 100% (though he never showed any offness on it) and an armpit gal (which looked just fine back in camp...a little hair rubbed off, but it was no longer swollen or hot). So the next ride, when he was back on his full game, he should be even better, right? :) I am thinking he'll go for more 50's at Eastern Mojave! I am totally on a high now! He's proved he can do the distance, and I think he'll continue to prove it. One more step up the ladder, to maybe...just MAYBE, being the first (as far as I know...if anyone knows different, let me know!) KMSH stallion to do Tevis... how cool would that be?? And another step for ME to do Tevis... ;)

"Sure, I will do Tevis...IF I don't have to wear this !#&*^ hat EVER again!" (Can you tell, he never got over it, the whole ride! LOL)