Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Charity Cup 2011, September 10th-11th, Pillager State Forest

photo courtesy of Bob Zimmerman
Lynne & Niso in the lead, Jutta & Gandolph as "buffer," and me on Rolex bringing up the rear
Yay!  I got to ride!  Although Rhio didn't get to enjoy the weekend, but stayed home babysitting Cricket and continuing to recover from his monster case of scratches, my friend Jutta brought me a horse to ride.  I had the privilege to take Rolex, a big bay Paint gelding, on his first 25 mile Limited Distance ride.  Rolex used to be owned by DeAnne, who just moved to Florida, and now lives with Jutta, while her husband Leo rides him for pleasure.  Within 10 minutes of my arrival, Jutta pulled in with Rolex and Gandolph after a long 7 hour haul from the middle of North Dakota.  Lynne & Donna had their horses Niso and C.J. settled into their pens, and a spot saved for Jutta's rig, and we commenced the unloading/unpacking/setting up chores.  Rolex walked off the trailer, took one look at Lynne's mare Niso in her pen, and immediately started "talking."  Rolex is a gelding, as far as anyone knows, but you sure would have thought he was a stallion by the big boy talk he was giving Niso, complete with visible physical accompaniments (if you know what I mean).

A little walking to stretch their trailer legs, a nice big drink for both of them, and we were ready to vet in.  Rolex has actually done a couple of novice fun rides, so it wasn't his very first time through the vetting process - but you sure couldn't tell by his behavior.  He though vet Nicole was entirely out of line wanting to look at his gums and check anal tone, but mostly he was completely distracted by the other horses; just in case there were girls in the melee, he made sure to announce his studliness repeatedly and vociferously.
Rolex screaming

Mr. Stud Muffin got a few lessons in backing and ground manners on our walk back to camp, which didn't actually seem to make much difference in his behavior, although he is a quick learner and started to back up as soon as he screamed after the first two times I backed him when he did it.  He didn't stop screaming, but he was nimble on his feet, hitting reverse every time before I could ask.  Given his behavior, he got tied to the trailer within the electric pen, and continued to scream periodically *all night long* -- many apologies to everyone camped near us; we didn't get any sleep either!

Tacking up, booting, and getting ready went smoothly...until I realized how far out of my foot-stretch range my stirrup was on this 16 hand monster.   I found something to clamber upon to get up on the beast, and then started getting the feel for him.  He was still screaming, by the way, but was responsive to cues and walked or trotted as I asked to warm up.  The ground was pretty far away compared to what I am used to, but he felt really controllable and safe and I wasn't really concerned at all, despite his atrocious behavior in camp and his less-than-stellar ground manners.  Lynne, Jutta, and I were planning to ride together for the day - so my concern was his ongoing stud behavior and riding with a mare.  We let everyone get down the trail before setting off, earning ourselves some cushion space, and headed off with Mr. Stud Muffin in the rear, his buddy Gandolph in the middle, and Niso in the lead.   Neither Niso nor Gandolph seemed to have much interest in leading, so we switched up with Rolex in the lead.  This worked great!  He had no concerns about the mare being behind him, but was entirely focused on the trail ahead.  This continued for the rest of the ride - Rolex leading with Niso behind or beside was fine, but anytime we tried to put Niso in front of Mr. Stud Muffin, I had 1200 pounds of studly, bit-chomping action beneath me.  Not good!
Gandolph & Niso at a water stop

The trail was beautiful, as usual, winding up and down hills continuously through mixed hardwood forest with some leaves just beginning to turn color.  We passed numerous small lakes and ponds, several of which we have horse access to for drinking and sponging.  Rolex was a great drinker, walking out knee deep (or probably deeper if I'd let him) at every water stop and taking great gulps.  He wasn't fazed at all by my sponge dropping into his field of vision, then being hoisted back up and the refreshing water being squeezed all over his neck.  I have to say, my experienced endurance Arabs are both still a little freaked out by the sponge when it is in the water with them or going up & down within their field of vision (I guess I don't do it enough!) - but only while I am sponging from their backs - and I was very impressed all day by Rolex's calm, cool, & collected behavior on trail.  He did absolutely great at trail stuff, and never spooked the entire ride.  He was easy to rate, responsive and light.  As long as he wasn't looking directly at a pretty mare posterior, he was perfect.
Lynne & Niso

Both Jutta and I started the ride with front boots on our horses; both boys wore Easy Boot Gloves with Powerstraps.  Both Jutta and I had booting issues, destroying our right front boots within a few miles of each other on the first loop.  I think Rolex stepped on himself, which tore the gaiter completely off the boot (it was brand new, just purchased from Silver's Equestrian Outfitters' mobile tack store at the ride!), and we're not sure exactly what happened with Gandolph's boot.  Luckily we didn't lose either boot, and were able to take the damaged boots with us for replacement.  Both horses continued with just one boot on; this is always a debate, as they were now uneven in the front.  However, the thickness of the boot was very minimal and we both decided that having one foot protected from the ample supply of rocks on the trail was better than having neither foot protected.  Both horses did just fine with this arrangement, but at the hold we put both boots on Gandolph and let Rolex do the second loop entirely barefoot.  Neither horse had any foot-related issues, so we were relieved.
Lynne & Niso
We were riding pretty slow, and nearing the end of the second loop became aware that we did actually have to watch the time a bit.  We wanted to make sure we had close to the maximum 30 minutes available to pulse down, as it was an unseasonably hot day (upper 80s, a bit humid) and our horses were working hard (this course is all hills - either ascending or descending nearly 100% of the time).  Once we get our in-time, the time we come off the trail, we have only 30 minutes for our horses to reach the pulse criteria of 60 beats per minute.  But our "ride time" clock doesn't stop until our horses reach 60, and our maximum ride time for the course is 6 hours.  Since our start time was 7:30 am, we had to have our horses' heart rates to 60 by 1:30.  We came off the trail just after 1, so with an adequately conditioned horse this shouldn't have been any trouble at all.  Mr. Stud Muffin, however, had other ideas besides relaxing and letting his heart rate decrease. Gandolph was down & vetted in no time, so Jutta (thank you!) came over to help me with Rolex.  He was quite hot, and we found a shady spot to sponge on cool water and scrape it off again, thereby pulling heat out and helping his body cool.   It took several buckets of cool water to get him cooled, but the problem wasn't the heat, but rather was his emotional/mental state and his hyperawareness of all the other horses in the vet check area.  We did manage to get his heart rate down to 60 with only 3 minutes to spare, I think mostly by luck as we had a little window with only a few horses in the area.  I tried to vet him right away, but more horses had crowded into the vet area and his pulse was up to 88 at the beginning of his final check.  Yikes!  We wouldn't pass with a heart rate of 88 - it still has to be 60 or below when you see the vets to pass the completion criteria.  So, off we went to our shady spot for a little more sponging and to wait for a quiet moment without any other horses in the vet area.  We caught a lucky break in horses a few minutes later, walked calmly over, and proceeded to vet out like a champ.  Whew!
Jutta & Gandolph lead the way in off the first loop along a section of single-track trail
Despite the nerve-wracking end (frankly, I expected to be pulled at the end for his high heart rate, which was entirely mental and had nothing to do with his physical fitness), I couldn't have been happier with my ride.  Rolex was a lot of fun on trail, easy to ride, and I think has a lot of potential in this sport. His weakness is his behavior and studly attitude.
Lynne & Niso in the lead near the end of the 2nd loop.
As you can imagine, Rolex's behavior was our central topic of discussion most of the weekend, and we spent Saturday afternoon sitting in the shade outside his pen experimenting (and enjoying beverages of choice with our well-earned junk food, of course!).  Donna had a bark collar along for her young Aussie, and with a little baling twine, it fit Rolex just fine.  Bark collars definitely work for calling horses!  He was smart enough to figure out when he didn't have it on, however, and went straight back to "talking" to Niso (who, I might add, didn't want anything whatsoever to do with him the entire weekend - thank goodness she's not one of "those" mares that goes into flamboyant heat at a ride!).  Jutta's second brainstorm was a splash of cold water on the tender parts when they were being displayed inappropriately; this did result in the tender parts being packed away in short order, but didn't serve to deter his behavior one bit.  The most effective thing we found was tying him to the trailer, at which point he would mostly focus on his hay.  Also, 25 miles of exercise had helped reduce his enthusiasm slightly over Friday night, so we were hopeful we might have a peaceful night Saturday.
A rare moment of peace & quiet with Rolex - I think he had the collar on here.
After potluck, where Rolex and I were awarded our completion tank top (luckily I don't have to share with him - it wouldn't fit him anyway!) as the very last LD completer, Donna saddled up her youngster CrackerJack (who also finished the LD - in 6th place!) and I saddled up Rolex (who thought - what??  Are you crazy?? We already did this for, like, 6 hours today! What do you mean you want to ride me again?), and we ambled off into the gathering dark for a moonlit ride hosted by the ride manager Angie and her mighty assistant Roxi.   I find night riding to be a real thrill, and, although I don't have much opportunity to do it, I take every chance I can get.  This night, with the full moon and open trail chosen for the short amble, it was bright enough to see pretty clearly and I would have even felt comfortable trotting.  Rolex was great, except when we fell in behind a mare in the group, and the ride was all too brief for me.  Donna had some trouble with C.J., but stayed calm and completed the ride as well.  It was actually the perfect way to stretch our horses' legs, as both were very slightly stiff when we started, but nice and loose when we ended.
He's a handsome guy, but camping with him was a nightmare!  You can see the strap of the bark collar up near his throatlatch.
I think Rolex decided he'd better shut up after that, or I might come saddle him up again!  We had a calm night, and I don't think Rolex made a single peep the entire night.  He did, however, viciously bite Gandolph in the back twice, right in the saddle area, so Jutta wasn't able to ride a second day.  That boy did not earn any points for camp behavior this weekend, but was so great on trail I wouldn't hesitate at all to ride him again if given the chance.
Rolex is still whinnying as Jutta finishes packing up to head home.
Thank you to Jutta for bringing me a horse to ride, to Lynne for a spot to sleep in her trailer, and to Donna for a great moonlight ride.  It's been a long season of staying home from rides, and I was ever so happy to be riding.  And congratulations to Rolex (Watch Me Ima Big Star is his fancy paper name) for his first 25 AERC miles.

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