Monday, July 29, 2013

Saddle Success with Scrappy

Temperatures finally cooled today and N and I had a chance to meet at Lake Oroville for a morning ride. There was inexplicable, fairly heavy smoke over the lake and enough smoke for pretty decreased visibility over the valley. The air didn't smell smoky and neither of us were aware of a wild fire. You can sort of see the grey tinge in the sky over the lake in the photo below. Also pictured, the spooky horsey obstacle course. Fortunately Scrappy isn't very spooky and just slowly walks past this sort of madness with his head low, snorting softly. 
We rode about 13 miles and took Scrappy up Sycamore Hill for the first time. He picked up a slow jog of his own accord as we headed up and motored nicely on a loose rein except where I slowed him on a few really rocky parts. I am still riding him with front Renegades and barefoot in the hind as I focus my experimenting on figuring out saddle/girth issues, but will eventually have to work him in hind boots too. He is moving well with the hinds bare but gives a few ouchy steps on rocks per ride and at speed I'd like his hinds protected for more miles. 

Today's tack testing included a new fleecy girth and a fleecy noseband cover. I Desitin-ed Scrappy's armpits just to be safe, and the fleecy girth didn't give him those weird lumps or rub any hair or skin off, woohoo! Also got a great, even sweat mark with the Woolback and western Abetta again, with not even the bat of an eye on back palpitation. I noticed the S-hack rubbed some hair off his nose last time and the fleecy noseband cover remedied that issue nicely today. We did a fair amount of relatively steep up and down riding today and the saddle didn't seem to slide at all. I'm amazed how well that small Woolback keeps saddles in place with no keeper straps at all! 

Here is Scrappy ready to sign the trail log at the top of Sycamore Hill:

Why is this thing in your hand not food to be crammed in my mouth??? Scrappy wonders
 Begging for cookies from N
 Willow and Scrappy rode well together today again, despite Willow being in heat and Scrappy getting a bit dangly in the male regions at the start of the ride. There was no funny business or squealing, though Scrappy did neatly cut Willow off on-trail approximately 85 times. He doesn't like to ride side by side it seems, when we come alongside a horse he gets sort of shifty and nervous and either stops dead and tucks in behind the horse or speeds up and neatly cuts them off. Interesting and maybe something learned from his young life growing up in the Rushcreek herd? Still, the horses got along fine and both snacked and drank well. Scrappy drank from a stream that we have always joked about being Off or "poisoned" as horses will sniff it but never drink it, and by appearances it's quite a nice, running stream. He also stopped along the trail to drink from a little ditch barely wide and deep enough to get his nose in. Great survival skills there but I did notice that he didn't pee until he was turned out at home, and it wasn't as much pee as I expected considering he drank 4 or 5 times on the ride. He eats and drinks and poops (and farts!) copiously on the trail but doesn't seem to pee very much.

 Here is Willow washing her eyeballs after the ride:
 I think I am happy with my tack on the Scrapster, for the most part. He is going great in the S-hack and Renegades, and the pad, girth, and saddle passed muster today. I may still get a crouper and teach him about that to have it in our arsenal, though my Abetta doesn't seem to be sliding so far. The saddle needs some tweaking for my benefit, namely rigging some endurance stirrups on and putting a full saddle fleece on it, since my feet hate me right now after the hard leather stirrups and I rubbed quarter sized raw spots on my inner thighs where a seam in the saddle was. I'm also still liking my idea of sawing off the horn menace on the pommel. I do like leaning on it and singing cow poke tunes but I ride in fear of knocking or catching myself on it. I've done both and neither are fun.

In other news, here is my lovely miss Desire enjoying breakfast the other morning. I rode her out the other day hoping to feel improvement after her hind hock injections but she was no sounder than before the injections, unfortunately. The quest continues..
Here is this year's giant pumpkin patch. The 2 pumpkin plants were planted under that little green tent in the middle, in the beginning of June. They have grown a bit!
 And finally, here is my computer helper, Rip, who is now 10 months old. He is an accomplished lap warmer and occasional assistant typist.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Crewing Team Chaton: Tevis 2013

I was lucky enough to be invited back to crew for Karen Chaton and Bo again this year, so Friday July 19th I threw my bag in the truck and headed for Robie Park in Truckee. 
 I actually had a clue where I was going this time and didn't drive in circles around downtown Truckee or anything! Soon I was on Mt. Watson Road and there were exciting signs appearing!
Karen got the same camp spot as last year and there was the mighty steed, Bo! He looked so great this year, fit and ready to tough out the 100 miles. The only problem was he conveniently heard something behind him every time the camera came out! 
 I attended the crew meeting this year with my crew buddy, W, and it was so great to see Dave Rabe perched on the rock in front of us, as cheerful and chatty as ever. The crew meeting was essentially the same as any ride meeting you've ever been to: you start out interested and prepared to take notes, realize you already know or can glean what you need from the printed material, and then the crowd starts asking circular questions that may get varying answers that may not be totally correct, and people start getting confused. That's about the time W and I wandered off.
 We loaded the Robinson Flat crewing gear: a tough cart, 3 buckets, Karen's lunchbox, and the crew bag. A modest supply, and yet she had everything she needed, just like last year. W and I drove back to Auburn and stayed at Motel 6 but were up at 3 a.m. to get a prime spot in the caravan line at Robinson. We were 4th in line and got a sweet shady spot set up for Karen and Bo!
 The smorgasbord for Bo:
 In the beautiful meadow behind the vetting area at Robinson is a great old fashioned pump that gave forth icy cold water, if you really put your back into it. I played photographer and W got us water:
 Only a few minutes after her 2012 arrival time, Karen came riding into the Robinson Flat vet check, unmistakable in her bright evaporative cooling vest and wild tights.
We pulled tack and sponged as Bo drank from the bucket and again at the trough, and he was already under critera. The vetting went smoothly and I trotted Bo out, it was a tight turn around in the lane and I don't think I executed it very well on the turn but I didn't look at him and I didn't hold him tight or close to his halter and the grades sounded good!

We made sure water bottles and electrolytes and batteries and food and boots were replaced and plentiful while Karen took care of herself and soon enough with aid of 15 and 5 minute warning alarms Karen was back in the saddle and leaving Robinson Flat on time:

Pictured in the middle is Diane Seaby Stevens, owner and creator of the Crazy Legs Tights these ladies are modeling! I have a pair myself and love them.
Leaving RF
Bo looking great as ever
We loaded our gear into the wagon and headed back to my truck, picked up 7 bags of ice in Foresthill and found Dave and the rig in a  prime spot at the Foresthill check area.
Camp Chaton @ Foresthill
Chaton crew and Tinker, headed to crew in our riders on Bath Road!
Bath Road crowd cheering in the Tevis riders
We had a few hours until Karen was due in and we expected she may be a little slower with the intense heat (a rumored 105+ in the canyons before Foresthill) but she came in once again quite close to last year's time. She had a big smile--but was missing a boot and already had one strap on going after starting with 4 glue-ons.
We went right to sponging and scraping Bo with ice water while I tried to get him to eat anything and ended up sprinting back to the trailer to get a mash. We brought hay and carrots but not a mash, DUH on our part, but luckily he snorkeled right into an Omelene mash as soon as I presented it to him while the others continued to sponge and cool him. He pulsed down in minutes and did great for his vet check and CRI despite the heat and humidity.
Karen showered and ate and changed while we switched Bo to her glow tack and she made sure to have extra strap on boots in case the last 2 glue-ons failed. Bo enjoyed being hand fed for a while and took a long pee during the hold, and we replenished the on-saddle essentials: water, electrolytes, grain bag, boots, and a red headlamp on her helmet.

Karen and Bo ready to head out of Foresthill vet check
Tanking up to finish those last Tevis miles in the dark
They left Foresthill on time looking great, and finished at 2:46 a.m. in 25th place . I am SO happy for them and lucky to be part of another successful Tevis year for her and Bo. Unfortunately once the adrenaline of seeing her out of Foresthill wore off I started feeling awful with a heat induced migraine and though I showered and went to the stadium with my other crew member I was feeling pretty bad and ended up heading home with the others' assurances they could handle the Finish. Of course they could and I was grateful to miserably and deliriously drive the hour and a half home to crash in my own bed that night. I am more impressed than ever with these horses and riders toughing out those hot 100 miles in 24 hours or less. I can't even keep myself healthy in the vet checks so I seriously question my own ability to take Tevis on, but I do dream of it, someday.

Hope to see you all at Tevis 2014, one way or the other!!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Great Tack Puzzle

This morning was an "experiment and ride" day, so I did a quick fit check with the lightweight western Abetta and Woolback on Scrappy, grabbed the S Hack and boot bucket, and away we went for the Lake Oroville trails. N and Willow met us there and we rode about 13 miles at a mostly leisurely pace with a few good trots and a sprinkling of hills. 

First of all, the S Hack worked great and Awww, isn't Scrappy-doo cute?! Such a soft eye. Thanks for the picture, N.
I decided not to try a new saddle AND hinds boots for the first time at the same time, as that could confuse diagnosis of a possible problem during the ride. Before I left in the morning I took Scrappy's heels back a little and rolled all 4 toes and he was great for the hoof work, too busy eating or staring/snorting at the goats to be too interested in what I was doing to his hooves. He took wo ouchy steps on big rocks with bare hinds in the entire ride today but otherwise was good to go, and the front boots worked great again despite his right front being pretty well right between a size 0 and 1. Renegade Vipers may be in his future for the more exact sizing potential, but for now the 1s are working on his fronts pretty flawlessly.

Scrappy was a nice, steady ride again today but about 3/4 of the way through when I clicked to him to move up from a walk he pinned his ears and turned and sneered at me! At first I thought he was directing it at Willow but they weren't riding that close and when he did it again when they were farther back I jumped right off and stripped his saddle and checked everything, afraid his back was hurting or there was something under the pad. Everything checked out fine so I re-tacked, walked him for a minute, remounted, and he only did it a few more times when I asked him to up his pace when it wasn't his decision, otherwise he was walking and trotting happily and apparently uninhibited. He didn't seem like a horse in pain but he was letting me know *something.* We started theorizing that it was his reaction to me messing with his pace, as he is generally pretty well left to his own devices on choosing the right gait and speed for the trail and bumps his reins irritably if I screw with his pace. He did it a few more times on the way back to the trailer and upon stripping tack off I didn't see an issue right away.
 The saddle itself fit well, it gave me a nice even sweat mark and no soreness at all after the ride. He still has a little pink spot on his back from when he rolled before Gold Country, I gooped it up for the ride today but I think the flies are re-irritating it in the pasture and stopping it from healing entirely so I'll  keep after it with the Trail-rite Magical Goo, my go-to for the persistent bug bite spots on Desire's belly.

While chatting with N at the trailers, I suddenly noticed 2 or 3 bumps along Scrappy's "arm pit" girth are and some small black spots of rubbed off hair. He was flinchy to the touch on bumps on both sides of the girth area, so he clearly didn't like the synthetic cinch on the saddle and the pinned ears may well have reflected pinchy moments! I felt pretty bad about it but c'est la vie. I can but try. Next it's wool/fleece or mohair girth for him..and Desitin is my friend..

So a win on the S Hack and hoof work, a possible win on the saddle fit, and a major lose in the girth department. The western saddle didn't seem to move at all today, I may not need a crupper after all if I use this saddle, but we'll see. Work at solving the Great Tack Puzzle must cotinue!

Scrappy looks like a lil cow pony in the western saddle I think!
 The Tack Puzzle is on hold for this weekend, however, as I leave Friday morning for Robie Park and will crewing for Karen Chaton and Bo again at Tevis! I am very much looking forward to it and wish the best of luck to all horses, riders, crews, vets, and volunteers participating in this amazing annual event. See you there!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Gold Country 2013

This was almost a post full of inappropriate, barely veiled wiener jokes, but fortunately after giving everyone a good show of it Friday afternoon, Scrappy kept it in his pants the rest of the weekend. And therefor this will be a totally serious, no nonsense write up with just the facts--and the facts are, the ride vet actually opened his part of the Friday night meeting with a wiener joke! True story.

Anyway, the long and short of it--HAH--is that I have myself a seriously wonderful new horse. Rushcreek Tracer, "Scrappy," is smart, sweet, quiet, engaged, cute, forward, smooth, and loves to eat and drink. He also apparently finds buckskin Mustangs rather inspiring, and as such went for our short ride Friday afternoon with his flag flying High! Keep in mind I'd had him for a week and have never taken an essentially unknown horse to a ride right off the bat like that. I didn't know if he was going to mount something or WHAT was going to happen, but I did know that the scandalized ladies walking by whispering, "OMG, that horse had an erection!!!" had me almost as entertained as I was concerned. Despite the grand display Scrappy never escalated from there, he gave some throaty little stallion  nickers but would then see a horse or something else and wander off to eat. We rode the LD Saturday with N and Willow with no parts dangling in the breeze, so go figure. We'll see if this is behavior only reserved for (very flirty) mares, but it was definitely ride camp entertainment of a different sort!

To backtrack, we left Friday morning, but barely. Thursday night my husband and I went out to feed together and found my 2 yr old, Sheza, dead lame with a super swollen left hind leg and mildly swollen right hind leg. We immediately set her up in a stall with fans (this was the end of a week straight of 105+ degrees), and hosed and iced her leg that night and the next morning. Sheza was cheery and eating but VERY lame, though this was also a dramatic 2 yr old's first ever lameness so it may have looked worse than it was. She took to the hosing and ice boots impressively well, thank goodness, as neither of us had the emotional or physical energy left to be battling her to help her in the nasty heat. The swelling decreased slightly after hosings Thursday night and the lameness improved by Friday morning. I was a hot mess trying to decide if I should go the ride on my virtually unknown horse and potentially die or stay home and stare at my lame filly tragically. My husband reminded me my vet was gone til Monday anyway and told me to take a deep breath and go to my ride already, promising to keep on icing and hosing Sheza's hind legs. Thank goodness I listened to him, grabbed Scrappy from the field, and went for it.

Hey guys, I just got here, am I leaving already?

 It was an uneventful 2 hr drive out to Georgetown and the shady Dru Barner ride camp, where we found J and Sedona already arrived and saving us a spot in the sturdy permanent camp corrals.
 Scrappy backed out of the straight load beautifully (his 2nd time in a straight) and went right to work on whatever food I would put in front of him. Here's Scrappy settling in and Sedona the sexy Mustang lurking at the fence, saying "come here little boy, I'll give you some candy!"
 Another local riding buddy, C, camped next to J and eventually N found us and moved her rig over next to us, too. We were all set up for another fun ride weekend!

 Scrappy had never worn boots until I tried them on him the weekend I bought him, so this ride made it his 2nd and 3rd time ever going in boots. I stuck with front Renegades only because I've heard so many stories of people trying out hind boots at rides with varying degrees of failure, and didn't need to add yet another New Unknown to the equation. He had gone great in the Rennys through muck and water and speed and hills on our trial ride, so I felt good about his front boots.
 This was about the time in the tale that Scrappy started flying his flag, and as you know we tacked up and went for a ride in full glory, as it were. Again, barely knowing Scrappy, I just didn't know what I was in for even riding at camp, let alone the whole surprise wang-dangler thing. Scrappy was just as happy to be out and moving as it appeared he was, and walked out nicely, did all I asked,  and was happy to get back to camp and settle down to eat some more. And eat he did, chowing a half bale of hay, a bag of carrots, and about 6 mashes in the 2 days we were there.

We vetted in with a pulse of 42 and all As but a B for impulsion. Turns out Scrappy is very unimpressed by trotting out for vets, something I clearly need to practice. He unenthusiastically jogged after me for Melissa Ribley who promptly said on our return, "You know, I thought he was lame but he just moves funny!" Be still my heart, I think I lost another year off my life when I heard the word "lame" come out of her mouth, after my week of toting Desire to Loomis and back for lameness only to discover that her filly was dead lame right before leaving for the ride. Scrappy was not in fact lame, he just doesn't lift his feet very high and sort of paddles, so it does look a little funny, but is incredibly smooth to ride. Anyway we got our number chalked on up high above his big Rushcreek number and I started to breathe again.

Friday night J cooked us dinner--woohoo!--we went to the ride meeting at 8, and then it was bedtime. Well for us, not for all the camp, as there was some hootin' and hollerin' of both the horse and human kind for quite a while. I was pretty nervous that night, having no idea what I was in for at ride start in the morning, let alone throughout the 30 miles. He has a nice little record and is clearly a good, kind horse but I've been through and seen and heard enough drama in the last few years that I swear I was as nervous as if it were my first ride ever. At that point I was still wondering if he was going to go 30 miles with his junk out!!

 As usual I slept like total shit, but I could hear a fleece blanketed Scrappy steadily chewing away most of the night and that was reassuring. The 50 started at 6 am, while the 30 mile LD started at 8 am and at least one of the Ride N Ties started in between, maybe both, not sure. Camp on ride morning was the usual mix of pockets of frantic activity and moments of peace around the rigs where horses had already left. Sedona wasn't happy to be taken away from Scrappy for tacking up but she settled in, and fortunately Scrappy was great. I tacked him at the trailer and he called and looked around if I walked away but if I was with him he was totally quiet and sweet and engaged with me. Really just a phenomenal heart and brain on this guy!
 After chatting with N about what sort of ride we both wanted, we agreed to ride together again and after letting the majority of riders head away out of sight, we hit the trail for our first AERC ride together!

Scrappy is quiet but he LOVES to go, just ask his perky ears :)
 I swear this photo could be Desire, especially since he's wearing her gear
 They had switched the order of the loops this year but the trail was the same, so much of it was familiar to N and I, as we rode it together last year on Willow and Blaze. A lot of shady forested dirt road, some great single track, minimal technical footing, but a fair amount of grades. Not to say it was a steep or hilly ride necessarily, just that you were going up or down perhaps more often than you realized, with a few very short, steep sections thrown in as well.
 Trail marking was phenomenal, very clear with ribbons, plates, signs, and chalk on the ground. Water was plentiful with troughs and natural streams available and there were even a few standing puddles out on the trail between water troughs in the first half of the ride.
 We had a hard time finding a spot to ourselves for a while as we caught a few people but mostly people were catching and lingering ahead of us. Scrappy was happy to trot along or do his incredibly smooth, powerful little canter. He really is a powerful little engine and uses his hind end so naturally and well. We les, went beside, or tucked in behind Willow and at one point were literally cantering in a pack of horses and he seemed fine with it all. He only pulled at the bit a little when he wasn't allowed to escalate to race mode but I think I only gave him one firm "Knock that shit off!" about anything, all day.
 The LD had one 30 minute vet check at 16 miles, out of camp, tack off optional, criteria 60 bpm. We trotted to the 1/4 mile to Vet sign then I hand walked him in and he pulsed at 48 immediately. The hold had loads of hay and horse mash and human food, and volunteers to stand with your horse if you needed to go pee in the bushes like I did! Melissa vetted us again with As and a 40/42 CRI, and then we failed miserably at the trot out. That is, Scrappy was in snooze and eat mode and was completely not buying this let's trot for no reason thing. I drug him down and back at a walk, embarrassed, and then trotted him out and back again with the help of a guy waving a big cowboy hat around. The vet seemed sort of amused by him, since she could see by his look and other criteria he wasn't sick or exhausted, he was just well, lazy I guess. I promised I would practice trotting out religiously at home and slunk back to our grub spot. I *will* practice trotting him out every time I pull him from the field, but I also have suspicions he'll always be laid back about the trot out. It's fine with me since he obviously knows to power down and go into conservation mode at checks and camp, but we certainly need to at least do a presentable mellow jog if nothing else, haha.

When we headed out from the hold Scrappy took about a mile to be excited about going again.

Soon enough he was all business again as we headed steadily back to camp, and supposedly past it for a "trot-by" check, though when we went by there was no vet present, then out past camp on the last little 6 mile loop. Scrappy was not amused about being back at camp but not being allowed to go sleep and eat, and with the gravelly footing at the start of the loop we slowed down to a steady meander for a while. I will definitely be booting him in the hind in the future, as he took the occasional ouchy step on the worst of the gravel, but the front boots worked flawlessly once again.

The last loop was beautiful and green and forested, but you wouldn't have guessed it from this unpleasant toasty moment out on gravel just before it got pretty:
 See, it's already way prettier!

 Even had a nice view point at a break in the trees
 N and I were sweaty and filthy and happy to be almost done as we both hand walked our horses up  the last hill and out around camp to the Finish. Scrappy's pulse was 42 at the Finish and he walked quiet as a lamb back to his food pile.
Predictably he barely trotted out for the final check, this time not for Melissa, so I mentioned the crappy impulsion grades even at check in and the vet agreed that he could see Scrappy was a quiet horse who was a little tired rather than a completely exhausted horse who could barely trot. Scrappy did have 2 little ouchy spots under the saddle which I'll address by rechecking fit but also experimenting with a crupper and remembering to ride with a tighter girth. I had some issues with my saddle sliding around on his short round body and a crupper might be a very good thing, though I've honestly never trained a horse to one before. I don't doubt Scrappy would humor the human and wear a fluffy strap under his tail if he was asked, that's the sort he is!

We stayed for a delicious ride dinner and I wasn't feeling my usual impulse to pack like the wind and get home, so I stayed the night again. Most of camp left Saturday night, including J and Sedona, but Scrappy once again impressed me by sending Sedona off with a few whinnies before turning back to his mash and quietly eating and sleeping alone for the rest of the night.

I couldn't be happier with this little grey horse! He is out in the field right now, still eating like a champ. I just knew we were going to have some funny ride moments together and sure enough there were some serious laughs on our very first outing. I am so looking forward to what's ahead for us!

LOOK, Wieners!
** In other news, Desire is looking good moving around in her paddock, I am to start riding her and see how she feels in about about week. Sheza's swelling and lameness have both decreased markedly today, though both hinds are still visibly swollen. Calling my vet at least for a chat in the morning..