Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Coyote Serenade (Point Chaser 2011)

What a fantastic day for a fantastic ride on a fantastic horse. 
The last distance ride of the year in Minnesota is called Point Chaser, for obvious reasons if you are a rider who rides for points/year end awards.  Someday I might be a rider like that, but for now, as I have a pretty inconsistent competition calendar, I pay exactly zero attention to points.  I ride because I love it and my horse loves it.  I especially love to see new trail, and this year Point Chaser was held at a new location, Zumbro Bottoms horse camp in the Richard Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest, in southeastern Minnesota.  I had never had the pleasure of being in this forest before, and I already can't wait to go back. This is one of the most beautiful spots I've ridden in Minnesota, bar none.  It was stunning, even with little of the fall foliage remaining, and I can only imagine how breathtaking it would be about two weeks ago.
The landscape is limestone river bluffs surrounding the Zumbro River, and incredible vistas encompassing the river and the surrounding farmland.  I will apologize right up front - I have hardly any pictures from the ride.  We were going too fast to take pictures.  Really.

Standing corn and harvested soybeans following the contours of the land.  
Point Chaser is a three day ride, but Gesa and I were only able to drive down on Friday afternoon to ride Saturday (and I was vetting on Sunday).  It was a nice day for hauling, which we are especially thankful for now that we have a open stock trailer to haul with, but we still put sheets on the boys before leaving home, as the morning temperature in Duluth was only just above freezing.  Rhio was a little hesitant to load, although loading has been going really, really well since we discovered he likes to go in second instead of first.  I opened the front of his blanket, and that solved his hesitation and he jumped right on.  With fly masks and hay bags in place, and Kelso already snoozing in the backseat of the truck, we were off!

It was an uneventful trip down, although Rhio did eat pretty well from his hay bag, which is unusual for him (but very good!).  It is a long trip, as once we leave the divided highway, we are winding our way down into the river valley between ever-steepening hillsides and the going is slow.  We hardly noticed, though, as the scenery even just along the road is very pleasing.  I spent the boring hours of interstate driving working on attaching fabric loops to a pretty plaid wool lap blanket, in the hopes it would become Rhio's new rump rug.

This camp is huge, and it seemed there were rigs as far as the eye could see.  We were able to snag a little space fairly near the vet check area, and next to Chip, her wonderful dog Ruby, and her horse Dezi.  There was space left on the high (really, REALLY high - we "height challenged" types had to really work to get our ropes over them) lines for Rhio and Paco to settle in.  After food, water, and a walk for the boys, we vetted in for Saturday's events and got our own accommodations set up: my newly-waterproofed old tent with many layers of blankets, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads -  the nights' lows were to be slightly less than tent-comfortable so we were basically making ourselves a nest to burrow into. Even Kelso had his own "jammies" to wear, his own sleeping pad, and his own wool blanket - all my attempt to keep him from stealing mine!

We stayed up "really late" (10 pm) with Chip, visiting and snacking, until we were too cold, then snuggled in for the night.  As we were waiting for our body heat to warm up our nest of blankets (which it did nicely; we were toasty warm and perfectly comfortable all night), we heard the first of the coyote song which was going to sing us to sleep each night, and rouse us again in the pre-dawn dark.  A few owls joined in the chorus for good measure.

Gesa and Chip were going to ride the 30 mile Limited Distance ride together, and Rhio & I were ready for our first 50 mile Endurance ride of the season.  I hadn't managed to locate my headlamp (it's still misplaced, actually) and so was breakfasting myself and Rhio, and getting us ready, with my little flashlight in my mouth.  It's small enough that it doesn't make me drool too much when I do this, but the metal was really cold! I really must find my headlamp...

Rhio was calm but excited to go, and I was up in the saddle only about 10 minutes before our start time.  He gets more riled up the longer we have to wait once I'm mounted, even if I keep his feet moving, so I've found he's best left tied as long as possible.  I was a little chilly, which usually means I've dressed just about right for the exertion to come, and was glad I'd chosen wicking layers throughout: my silk long underwear beneath "fall" tights, "performance" top with polarfleece and a light jacket, little stretchy gloves (a little warmer than my summer riding gloves but not so much that my hands would get sweaty), and just a bandana covering the tops of my ears beneath my helmet.  Rhio was wearing his new wool rump rug, and the sun was just rising over the eastern bluff with the promise of a perfect riding day to come.

As soon as they called "Trail's Open!", we were off in the lead, on a loose rein.  He is such a beast when there are horses in front of him that I decided just to try going out in front.  This is not a place I'm used to being, but it sure worked for Rhio.  We were cruising down the trail, with plenty of forward motion but totally relaxed.  By the time we hit the river bridge (we were to cross this bridge 6 times during the course of our 50 miles), a small group of riders was with us and Rhio only gave up the lead to sacrifice another horse to the scary bridge monster so that it wouldn't eat us.  After a few more miles, the pack of six settled into two groups of three, with myself, a guy, and a gal staying together in the lead.  The three of us ended up riding the entire 50 miles together, and happily so.  The three geldings seemed to get along perfectly well, and we traded off leading, though Rhio and the guy's horse did the majority of it.

Our first loop was 20 miles, and it was a pleasant mix of wide 2-track and single track trail, going up, down, and around the river bluffs with some flatter areas for cantering.  Rhio seemed to have a blast with the trail and felt just as fresh finishing the loop as he had starting it.  We passed Gesa and Chip on the trail in, as they had started only 15 minutes behind us and were doing a shorter loop.  I thought maybe Rhio would want to stay with Paco, his training buddy, but he barely paused long enough to say hello as we cantered along a lovely bit of flat trail and kind of left them in the dust (sorry, guys!). We came in with a loop time of 2 hours 6 minutes.  Rhio pulsed down first, but the other two were right behind us, and we all scattered to our respective trailers for our hour hold.  Gesa and Chip arrived about 15 minutes later with Paco & Dezi, and the three horses got right to the business of eating and resting.  We riders tried to do the same, but there are always a million little things to do, find, adjust, etc plus a walk to the outhouse to accomplish, so even with a whole hour, I barely sat down.

At our exit CRI, Rhio's pulses were 12/11, which was nice to see as we'd never done a 20 mile loop at 10 mph before, but it was clearly well within his abilities.  The three of us who had ridden together were out basically together, and so we set of on our second 14.5 mile loop as a threesome once again.  Again, the loop was a lovely mix of climbing & descending, with twisty single track and some deep sand to keep us focused.  We were beginning to run into trail riders now, as it was approaching a reasonable hour to be out riding for fun and the day was in fact shaping up to be positively gorgeous.  The groups all seemed courteous & friendly on both ends - the competitive riders and the trail riders seemed to be sharing the trail easily.
The big descent on loop 2.
One hour and 33 minutes later, we found ourselves back in camp - it felt like the blink of an eye.  The competitive drive had begun by this time, and we had to pass several carts on our way in.  I was riding with the heart rate monitor, and although Rhio didn't give any outward appearance of being bothered by the carts, his heart rate shot up over 30 points each time we passed one.  He was pulsed down by the time we walked from the trail through camp to the timer, and we headed back to the trailer for more eating and resting.  Rhio preferred grass this check, but still finished off his beet pulp & goodie mash from the first hold.  It was warm enough to shed a few layers and leave the rump rug behind for the last loop.
Yep, that's ride camp down there.
Loop three took us up the eastern ridge near camp, and gave us a breathtaking panoramic view of the valley, the river, and ridecamp.  I very much enjoyed it as we flew past, really I did!  A trail rider on a cremello mare started tagging along with us, and was full of questions about endurance (hopefully a new rider for next year!).  Her mare kept up with us and she seemed to be having a blast.  Rhio did not care to have her directly behind us, however, and I kept him in the middle or front of our group of three.  About two miles from the finish, just as we'd crossed over the river bridge for the last time, the horses started speeding up on their own.  I could feel Rhio's competitiveness really kicking in, and I just kept telling him (and myself) that we were NOT GOING TO RACE!  NO RACING!  (Actually, I think my exact words were, "Knock it off! We're not racing! Settle down now! Quit!" repeated in various combinations as required.) It helped that we had to stop a few times for groups of trail riders, and pass a few carts, and just generally deal with some "traffic issues." Each time we had to slow, Rhio had to think about my directions a little bit more and settle down a little bit.  It was hard, as it was really fun to be flying along at a hand gallop and I didn't really want to slow him down, but safety was my number one priority and I kept my head about me, and checked Rhio down when my companion in my weight division took off in a sprint about 1/4 mile from the finish.  Boy did I have an unhappy horse for that last 1/4 mile to camp!  He was doing an excellent impression of a pogo stick, and when that didn't work to make me let him run to catch that horse, he started shaking his head so forcefully I was afraid he was going to throw himself onto the ground.  He was NOT HAPPY with me holding him back, but he did listen and we came into camp with the gal (a lightweight) we'd been riding with all day, and 1 minute behind the guy (a fellow heavyweight).  I've never thought I'd ever come close to winning a ride, so I was thrilled to pieces with a second place on a strong horse.  Rhio felt like a million bucks all day, eating and drinking like a champ, never tiring, and cantering or trotting along on a loose rein the entire 49 3/4 miles (yep, we were NOT on a loose rein that last 1/4 mile).
Trotting out.
And back.
The last loop took us 1 hour 20 minutes, and Rhio still felt as fresh as a daisy.  We stood for Best Condition at 30 minutes after our finish time, and Rhio looked absolutely fantastic.  He out ran me back to Dr. Dean on his CRI and was just the picture of a happy, fit horse.  I knew the guy had a decent amount of weight on me, but I was just thrilled with how well Rhio did all day and what a great time I'd had riding him.  To my surprise and delight, Rhio's vet score more than made up for the weight disparity, and Mr. Rhio, My Most Awesome Boy, WON BEST CONDITION!!!!!  It was his first BC, and the prize was, very appropriately, a bag of horse treats.  Rhio will enjoy his winnings very much!
Rhio's Best Condition treats and our ribbon.  Yes, I still like to get ribbons!  
About an hour after we finished, Gesa, Chip, & I decided to saddle up again and head up to the overlook to take in the views and take a few photos as well.  I mistakenly thought that I could take Rhio out in just his rope halter after doing 50 miles in less than 5 hours ride time, instead of putting his bridle on, and ended up having to hand walk him on the way back because he wanted to catch all the horses he could see in front of him.  It was well worth the short walk up the very steep hill to enjoy the magnificent panorama.
Paco & Dezi enjoy the view.

I wonder what the horses think when they gaze so intently at a view right along with us.

Before I knew we'd won BC, and you already can't wipe the grin off my face.
We all slept well Saturday night (I was a little too warm, actually), and in between vet duties Sunday morning I helped Gesa get everything packed up, horses loaded, and saw her & Kelso off for the long & lonely drive home.  I was able to snag a ride home with another Duluth rider, and eventually made it home, exhausted but euphoric, well after dark Sunday night.  What a way to end the season (though, sadly, I feel as though my season only just began with being able to do a single ride back in May, and now two in October, as my only rides for the year on my own horse).

I am so proud of my super star horse.  It was such an incredible feeling to ride him all day, and just feel like I had so much horse there and he was so happy flying up and down the hills, weaving in and out of the trees, and basically doing a darn good impression of magical winged Pegasus with nothing but wind beneath his hooves.  My horse is awesome.
My "poor, exhausted" pony - not exactly!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

How to Lose Two Shoes, and Other Adventures

Wednesday October 5, 2011
North Shore Trail

Rhio still has all four shoes here. 
We had just enough time for a fast ride on our favorite local snowmobile trail, which has FINALLY been mowed; we blame the MN state government shutdown for the lack of trail  maintenance this summer, though I don't know if that is the real culprit.  Last summer the trail was mowed the entire season, but this year it was only just mowed sometime in September.  This is a big bummer for us, because it is impassable when not mowed due to the belly-deep grass.

We tried a new arrangement, loading Paco into the trailer first (the first stall has more length and he is longer than Rhio so is a bit squeezed in the back stall) and I was skeptical that Rhio would load, given his past performances being asked to load into small spaces.  Well, was I surprised and proved so, so wrong!  Rhio walked right into that trailer without even a pause!  What a good boy!  And it wasn't even a one-time wonder, as he did the same thing loading to come home, and again on the next weekend when we went overnight camping (see upcoming post).
Just starting out - still shod all the way around.

On the way back - you can see only the top of Paco's rump is dry, everything else is drenched in sweat.

Rhio is definitely missing the right front shoe, and maybe the left front as well by this point.  
It's only about 1 1/2 miles down the road to the spot we park the trailer to ride this trail, and in no time we were unloading, tacking up, and getting Kelso equipped with his bell.  Rhio had been missing a nail on his right front shoe since before our trip to Michigan (I discovered it too late to call my farrier, so crossed my fingers and had no trouble), but this was the first time I could tell that the shoe was a little loose.  Hoping for the best yet again (although I had tossed in a boot just in case), we set off around the gate meant to keep ATVs off the trail (which it doesn't do at all) and headed up the hill.  I felt a little bobble about 20 yards up the hill, kept going, and at the top finally decided to look - sure enough, that right front shoe was no longer with us.  The way my farrier applies shoes allows them to come off cleanly, without tearing any hunks of hoof off, and Rhio was unconcerned about his single bare foot.  We backtracked to the bottom of the hill (while texting the farrier for an appointment ASAP!) but weren't able to locate the shoe.  Oh, well - off we went on the remainder of the ride.  The horses were on fire, and we had a fast and joyous ride up and down hill and vale, enjoying the brilliant fall colors whizzing past us as we galloped on into evening.  We crossed the river bridge, went a little farther to find some puddles for drinking, then turned for home.  Poor Kelso was keeping up but it took all he had and his tongue was practically hanging on the ground, especially in the heat.  I know it's unbelievable, but it was about 70 degrees even at 6 pm!
Both Kelso & Paco look a little tired! 
We finished up close to 10 miles in about an hour and 20 minutes (nice pace!), and lo and behold! - Rhio was now missing BOTH front shoes!  I didn't feel him lose the left one, and had no idea where it might be, so we didn't even consider looking for it.  Both hooves were in perfect shape and he was 100% sound (it's a grass trail with few rocks), and I already had the farrier coming for one shoe, so no matter to do 2 (actually, we'll probably do all 4 since he's about due for a reset anyway, and Point Chaser is only 9 days away now).
Right front - notice anything?  Not only is the shoe gone, but if you look at the shiny bit on the right side of the photo between the sole and the hoof edge - yep, that's a nail minus the head stuck in his foot. Ran however many miles on that without a problem (kinda lucky).

And a still-shod hind hoof :) 
The horses were dripping wet after their exertion in the unseasonable temperatures, and we covered them with coolers against the oncoming chill (this is how you can tell it's October and not July - it may be 70 while the sun is still up, but the temperature drops fast once the sun goes down) for the ride home in the open trailer.  They got a snack of beet pulp at home, and we left them in stalls with their coolers on to dry a bit before being turned out.  Here is where I made a big error in judgement - I just wasn't thinking.  Rhio's cooler was already soaked through, but he was toasty warm and comfortable beneath it.  I knew better, but instead of switching the wet one out for a dry cooler, in order to continue wicking the sweat away, I just left the wet one on him.  Poor Gesa went out several hours later to find both horses still soaking wet.  They were warm, but still wet.  One of those little mistakes that you kick yourself for, and hopefully learn from, but didn't turn out to be a problem for the ponies, thank goodness.  She walked them a little and threw them out, and all was well.

Next stop on our fall riding tour - Stony Brook Horse Camp for an overnight and a long conditioning ride.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pine Marten Run

October 1 & 2, 2011
Hiawatha National Forest
Upper Peninsula, Michigan

Pine Marten Run

Theresa lives about three hours from me, yet she was willing to go out of her way to pick me up so that we could drive across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan together to attend the Pine Marten Run endurance ride.  Many, many thanks to Theresa for driving the extra miles (through some seemingly endless construction on the way home, no less) to pick me up!  I had a great time and was thrilled to ride new trails and check another state off my list. 

Speaking of my list, one of my career goals for endurance is to ride an endurance ride in every state that has one (there are none in Hawaii, for example).  So far I have only ridden in the Midwest; my state list is now Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Michigan. 

It was a goal-fulfilling weekend, as I’d set a few goals for Rhio for this ride, including riding alone (which we did not accomplish) and doing a 3-hour 25 miler.  Well, my actual trail time (not counting the time to pulse down, so this won’t concur with my official AERC time, but I have always kept track of my trail time) was 2 hours 40 minutes (!) and we took 4th, only 10 minutes behind the leaders.  Not bad for not having gone to a ride since May, and only having done about 6 conditioning rides in the past 2 months.  I was really, really happy with his performance, and the only thing I regret is not doing a 50!  I was hesitant to ask him to go 50 miles with the two long trailer rides (7 hours) sandwiching competition day, and so little competition this season.  He was full of himself the entire ride and trotted out at the final check looking like he hadn’t done a thing. 

Theresa & her mare Queen arrived in Duluth Thursday evening, and got settled in at Gesa’s for the overnight.  Friday morning we loaded up and were on the road before 9 am.  Rhio loaded willingly, actually surprising me by just following me onto the trailer without the slightest hesitation.  He sure makes it clear that he has a strong preference for big trailers!  Friday was a cold, windy, on-and-off rainy day as we drove east along Lake Superior to Nahma Junction, MI.  The only problem with the drive was the unending vistas of blazing hillsides covered in maples in all their fall splendors, and of the impressive waves crashing into the shore; we wanted to stop and enjoy the beautiful fall vistas around every bend, but we knew we had to keep marching on for ride camp.
Pine Marten Run ridecamp
We found ride camp in the Hiawatha National Forest easily, and drove in gingerly, having been warned that it is “just a big field.”  Well, it’s more like an area that formerly had trees and no longer does, but their remnants (stumps and holes) are still very much present.  The major groundcovers are lichen and a woody-stemmed plant called “sweet grass” which was about 12” – 14” high.  There were also small trees and shrubs scattered about, and we tromped around looking for an acceptable place to park without doing major damage to truck or trailer in the process.  Thinking we’d found a spot, we unloaded Queen and Rhio and Theresa proceeded to back through the humps into a “spot” of sorts.  Unfortunately, something under the hood of the truck didn’t much like this, and she was smoking pretty good by the time we were situated.  Oops.  (Just so you don’t worry, the truck seemed to be functioning normally on Sunday and the smell of scorched whatever was mostly dissipated, and we made it home just fine.  I’m sure Theresa will be having the truck looked at, though.)
Rhio's side of the trailer

Queen's side of the trailer

Although Rhio and Queen had had the entire day in the trailer to bond, we gave them each their own side of the trailer and got set up for the night.  I had brought a few step-in posts and a rope (borrowed from Gesa) to make a “fake” electric pen for Rhio, as I know he is much happier in a pen than being tied.  Obviously this is not a secure containment method and I only allowed him to be loose in his pen when I was there to supervise.  Overnight, he was tied to the trailer. 

We vetted in and marked the first differences from the routine at MN rides – the vets didn’t have scribes and had to do their own writing on our cards!  Speaking as a ride vet…that sucks!  They didn’t seem to have the line-up of horses waiting to vet in that we are accustomed to, either, so the extra time it took for them to fill out the cards didn’t seem to be an issue.  Also, though, we riders weren’t immediately aware of how they’d scored our ponies, as we are at MN rides because the vets are verbalizing their scores as they go.  Our horses remained unmarked, as they felt the rump rugs (it was going to be pretty cold at the start) would just rub the grease paint numbers right off their rumps.  That would have been too true, I’m afraid!  I actually rode Rhio the entire ride with his rump rug covering his hindquarters, as he is pretty easily chilled and I have learned from experience that it is much better to err on the side of a little too warm with him.  It would be nice, however, to finally get around to finishing the wool rump rug I’m making for him, as Red’s polarfleece one is really too big for Rhio and hangs way off of him. 

Theresa set up the camp stove and cooked us hot & satisfying tortellini for dinner (I contributed salad), then we were off to the ride meeting.  We were not given maps, as everyone does the same trail – pink out to the out check, and blue back to camp.  The pink trail is 13 miles, and the blue trail 12 miles, so the 25’s do it once and the 50’s do it twice.  We packed up our hay, water buckets, and various sundries for the out check, put our stuff in the trailer hauling everyone’s junk out there, and walked our ponies before bed.  Here we noted another big difference from ride camp in MN – no one besides us was walking their horses.  Walking your horse before bed, and periodically at all times while camped, is practically religion at MN rides (and, also a major social event.)  There was no horse walking and no socializing that we were aware of, although to be fair we were camped way out on the fringe of the rigs, and we discovered Saturday morning that more rigs had parked in the open area on the other side of the road. 
Kelso was happy to come along to ridecamp
The weather forecast was for lows in the 30s, so I layered Rhio up with 2 polarfleece coolers beneath his rain sheet (why didn’t I just bring his winter blanket?  That was dumb.) and slept in 2 layers myself.  I stayed warm enough, and because I was wearing my riding clothes to sleep in, I didn’t have to dress in the frigid pre-dawn.  Theresa & Queen were doing the 50 mile competitive ride, and they left at 8 am (sunrise occurs sometime after 7 am).  My start time was 8:30, and trying to get Rhio saddled turned out to be an exercise in frustration.  He was spinning around, completely unsettled watching all the other horses warming up and leaving camp.  My saddle fell off him no less than six times before I was able to get it all situated correctly and his girth attached.  You can imagine I wasn’t too thrilled with him – and, frankly, I wasn’t too sure I wanted to get on!  I hand walked him briefly, let him “lunge” himself in frantic circles around me for a few minutes, then finally mounted (he stood still!) and we were off warming up.  He settled down immediately under saddle to a controllable trot (walking was not an option) but had a fit every time I asked him to turn in the direction he thought was away from the trail.  He didn’t actually have any idea where the trail was, however, so this was kind of comical as he thought the trail was the other direction.  Anyway, we got going and quickly overtook the few horses in front of us at the start.  He was demonstrating a pretty solid case of race brain, and we had to catch and pass the front-runner before I could ride on a loose rein.  That woman stayed with us, and we were joined by another, and the three of us cantered (mostly) and trotted (a bit) our way through the first ¾ of the loop before being joined by a fourth rider.  Once Rhio decided these horses were in “his group,” we were able to follow as well as lead without any fuss.  I didn’t catch these gals names, but really enjoyed the loop with them and chatted back and forth a bit about our home trails for conditioning, rides we’d done, etc. 
Rhio in an extreme state of alertness as he watched all those other horses get ahead of him on trail (or so he thought)
About a mile from the out check, we passed Theresa and Queen, and sailed into the check cantering.  Oops.  I don’t normally do that, but it was more stressful to fight him than to just let him stay with the group.  He normally pulses right down, so I wasn’t too worried about that – although I’d left my only stethoscope at the finish and would have to guess when he was down at the check.  I found the whole out-check to be pretty chaotic.  There was a method to the madness, I am sure – and it seemed to center around a guy named Bruce.  Unbeknownst to me, he was keeping track of EVERYTHING!  It’s impressive, really, but I didn’t quite get the flow of things and didn’t get much rest myself as I was a little stressed trying to figure out the system.  The vets took our pulses for our hold time (40 minutes) to start but then immediately had us do a trot out for our CRI and did the rest of the exam.  I was happy that Rhio’s CRI was 16/15, but thought it was an odd way of doing it, as we are used to doing the vet exam at the end of our hold, when the horse is rested, fed, watered, and no longer in the adrenaline-fed “up” state that they are when they first came in off trail.  When that adrenaline is high, they will look great even if they aren’t.  The exam after they’ve rested is much more indicative of their true metabolic and mechanical fitness to head back out on trail.  At the end of the hold, we have to do a trot-by for the vets and then are released to head out.  Theresa and I were out within a minute of each other, so we decided to ride together.  It was great to be out there just the two of us, and Rhio was no longer trying to win but was happy to move out relaxed and enjoy the trail.  I still didn’t get many photos, as we weren’t dallying around, but believe me when I say these trails were GORGEOUS! 
Rhio enjoying some of his beet pulp at the out check

Theresa and Queen getting ready to trot out at the out check

About 2/3 of the way back to camp, three other LDers passed us, and Rhio was prancing, dancing, and kicking up quite the ruckus – he does NOT like to be passed!  I decided to let him go, as fighting him was no fun for either of us.  We stayed with that group of three, finally passing two of them in the final half mile and coming in to vet check with TJ and his lovely mare Tara, a Wisconsin rider we frequently see at MN rides.  Tara pulsed down just before Rhio, and we finished the ride by standing for Best Condition.  No surprise given the weight difference between TJ and me, but we did not win BC.  I was proud of my pony, though, and he looked great at his trot-out.  Again, the exam was done immediately after finishing, unlike what I’m used to, and his gut sounds were a little down for him (but, he hadn’t had anything to eat since the check, as there wasn’t a whole lot of grass on the loop). 
the one trail picture I took

Settling him into the trailer, I had the afternoon to relax while Theresa & Queen finished their ride around 5:15 pm.  I pulled my chair up in the sun outside his pen and settled in with lunch and my book for an hour or so, then Kelso, Rhio, and I took a long wandering walk around the sandy roads in the area.  Rhio found a great place to roll, drank deeply out of several puddles (he does have a fondness for puddle water), and Kelso ran back and forth chasing squirrels until his tongue hung halfway out of his mouth. 
Rhio relaxing in his jammies

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon but the wind was pretty chilly; I was layering and unlayering constantly.  After our walk, I left Rhio’s cooler off as he seemed to be basking in the sun.  Shortly thereafter, I noticed a tiny bit of either shivering or muscle twitching in his quadriceps.  He was either cold (common with him) or low in electrolytes (possible, as with all the commotion at the out check he did not eat his entire beet pulp mash and his normal dose of electrolytes were mixed into the mash – so he got less electrolytes than normal), so I treated both possibilities and covered him with his warm cooler and gave him a dose of e-lytes.  He loved standing facing out of his pen watching all the activity in camp, and Kelso & I crawled into bed for a little nap (ah, the luxury!).
The view out the trailer door after my nap
Theresa & Queen finished looking good, although she’d had some muscle cramping at the second out-check, and we worked to get her settled in before potluck.  Being a U.P. ride, lovely pasties were served as the main course and as always our plates were bulging with good food.  Theresa & Queen took first, and got a lovely handpainted mug.  I chose a roll of vet wrap as my placing award, and a tote stenciled “Pine Marten Run” as my completion prize.  I love to have stuff that is personalized to the ride. 

It was getting very chilly as the sun set, and we were again one of the only groups out walking our horses.  We were both pretty happy to be crawling into our sleeping bags, although those first few minutes before the slippery cold nylon lining warms up with body heat are never enjoyable.  We knew we wanted to get a pretty early start on the 7 hour trip back to Duluth, as Theresa would be continuing on back to her home directly. But, we also didn’t feel like setting our alarms and getting up pre-dawn again – so we didn’t!  We were in for a surprise when we did get up Sunday morning, though, as there was frost on the inside of the trailer!  There was ice on the water buckets, a heavy frost on every surface and leaf, and it was in the low-middle 20’s!  Brrr!
Theresa & Queen walking in the morning frost

Luckily, the switch from Eastern to Central time was in our favor this direction, and we pulled out of camp just after the riders all headed out on trail.  It was an uneventful and again extremely scenic trip back west across the U.P.  The horses traveled well, although Rhio did not eat much hay at all on either journey.  On the way across, I dropped Rhio’s hay onto the floor (we left the horses untied in the trailer) instead of leaving it in his hay bag and that seemed to appeal to him.  Queen was able to snake her neck beneath the divider and steal much of his hay, but with a big enough pile of hay this wasn’t too much of a problem.  Rhio did refuse to drink on the trailer, and I fed him a wet beet pulp mash at our rest stop.  We had hoped to find a safe spot to unload on the trip, but we did not and were only able to stop and let the horses rest on the trailer. 
Kelso zonked in the backseat
Rhio does internalize his stress, but even so he seemed to handle the trip well.  I will be trying a few things in the future to get him to eat and drink better on the trailer.  Neither one is a problem as soon as he’s unloaded, though!  I had started him on his probiotic product about 10 days before the trip and continued through the weekend.  He also received an acid-reducing supplement, which I have not used previously.  He exhibited nice formed manure the whole weekend instead of his typical loose manure in stress situations, and I was quite happy with that.  I will continue to use both, and in fact have continued him on his probiotic daily through the end of the ride season. 

Overall, it was a most excellent weekend and I would go back to Pine Marten Run for the beautiful 95% single track trails and the friendly riders, vets, and management.  Two thumbs up!
Rhio at home in the pasture, getting directly to the business of eating!