Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


This morning, as soon as I neared Rhio in the pasture, I could tell something wasn't quite right with his face.  The left side just below the facial crest (bony prominence between the eye and the nostril) looked particularly dark.  It turns out it was dark because it was wet; it was wet because it was coated in tears.  His eye was swollen, painful, and leaking tears down his face (also he had been rubbing on his front leg, and his left carpus was discolored as well).  Poor guy! 

I brought him up to the gate, tied him to a post, and hurried home (across the road) to grab my eye-related supplies.  The first concern with any eye issue is whether the cornea is injured or not. I suspected not, since he was willingly opening the eye (except of course when I wanted to look at it - then he'd squint it shut tight like a clam shell.  Horses have incredibly strong eyelid muscles!).  With the help of a little sedation, I stained the eye with bright green fluorescein dye.  This dye will stick to any corneal injury, highlighting it so it can be seen.  As it did not stick to his cornea, it confirmed that there was no corneal injury.  The conjunctiva (pink membranes on the inside of the eyelids and eye socket) was very swollen and bright pink, and the likely source of the excessive tearing and soreness.  I flushed the eye thoroughly and looked for any foreign matter, like a piece of a plant, which could have gotten lodged anywhere around the eye.  With that search turning up empty, thankfully, I can confirm that he has a simple case of conjunctivitis, or inflammation of the conjunctiva.  This is a really common condition in the late summer, as the face flies swarm around the horses' eyes and feed off tears and secretions.   They carry bacteria on their feet and mouthpieces, depositing these in the horses' eyes and potentially causing minor infections and inflammations.  This condition is somewhat similar to pinkeye in kids (or cows). 
Rhio's sore and swollen left eye.  Note the upper eyelashes are pointing somewhat down to the ground.  This is a key indicator of a painful eye in a horse.
Normal right eye.  Note the eyelashes point out - parallel with the ground.  (also you can see his eye is fully open on this side)
Green fluorescein dye around his eye.  It would stick to any corneal injury.
The pink conjunctiva of his upper eyelid - swollen and bright pink. 

This is a minor condition with very little risk of future complications.  It can be easily cleared up with eye ointments containing broad-spectrum antibiotics with or without steroid (for inflammation).  A little systemic anti-inflammatory medication can help the swelling go down and make the horse more comfortable.  A fly mask will protect the eye from further contamination by the flies, and help filter the sunlight which can make a painful eye even more painful.  I have almost all of these things on hand, and was able to get Rhio on the mend.  But here's what gets my goat: Rhio has been wearing a fly mask during daylight hours since his arrival in Colorado.  The other five horses in his herd do not wear fly masks.  I am cognizant of the risk of conjunctivitis in late summer and take preventative measures.  So why is MY horse the one that gets it?  Geesh!

By this evening, his eye was much less swollen and much more comfortable.  He was waiting near the gate for his supper, and has clearly figured out how to get into the flowing waterway that borders his pasture, as his legs were muddy.  I don't know if he was cooling off in the water, drinking, or merely eating the lusher grass on the bank.  But it doesn't surprise me in the least that he's discovered the joys of the drainage ditch. 
Droopy lower lip - still a little sleepy from his sedation.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ride N Run

Rhio is here!  And our first ride was Sunday, August 18, only a day and a half after he arrived in Colorado.  My honey aspires to be an ultra runner, a sport oh-so-similar to endurance riding.  He has gotten me jazzed about running, and as we run together, I find great joy in it (amazing, but true).  However, I am not yet (or perhaps ever) ready for his caliber of "long runs," but now that Rhio is here, we can still train together - albeit me on horseback and he on foot.  This was our first attempt at co-training, and it was so fun! 
This is about the widest shoulder we've got along a paved road - luxury!

C. left the house a bit before Rhio and I were ready, knowing that we would catch him, as our trotting pace is faster than his long-run pace (though our walking is slower).  As this was Rhio's first venture out in a new environment, I gave him plenty of time to look at things as we went.  We began along the bike trail (paved) which runs in front of our house.  This requires us to traverse three wooden bridges with tall steel railed sides.  The first is quite short and Rhio readily crossed it.  He was reluctant to cross the other two, both much longer, and so I hopped off to lead him.  We then had to traverse the very narrow shoulder of a two-lane paved road, and he was his normal unflappable self.  Strangely, our road has quite a lot of truck traffic (where are they all going?  the road heads up a mountain canyon, without an significant population center at its head), as well as copious bike traffic.  He was completely unconcerned.  In Colorado, most drivers seem cognizant of horses on the roadways, and both slow down and move over.  It is much appreciated!  We continued up the canyon road (complete with several stop-and-stares at alpacas and various spots with horses in fields, and a standoff with a pair of big white fluffy dogs which came charging out from a hobby farm), until turning off onto a gravel road.  We had to walk slowly, and stare intently, at a donkey pastured with a herd of horses (and obviously an intact jack, as he was making a very good effort at breeding one of him companions, who was, alas, several inches too tall for him to succeed) - but finally saw C. running along the road back toward us.  Due to several miles of necessary walking, it took much longer to catch up with him than anticipated. 

We continued along the gravel road, leapfrogging with C. as our paces did not match perfectly.  This allowed Rhio to walk as needed for scary, or potentially scary, things.  At the end of the road, a dairy facility loomed large on the corner and as a massive herd of Holsteins swarmed to the fence, Rhio freaked out.  I dismounted, and handled a heart-thumping, giraffe-necked Arab from the ground as we made our way past the very scary cows.  We had about another mile of gravel road (lovely for trotting!) before we once again had a narrow shoulder to utilize.  Luckily, this part of the route was quiet on the traffic front, and Rhio even grabbed a drink along the roadside drainage ditch (flowing water, so it seemed clean enough for horsey refreshment).  We had to cross a two-lane divided highway, and travel along the ditch about a half mile to hit another stretch of gravel road.  This was completely uneventful, as Rhio snatched grass and even had a nice pee while semi's roared past. 
Three of these four horses were completely freaked out by Rhio and wouldn't stop running around. Perhaps they've never seen a grey before?

The gravel road along the other side of the highway wound along the river for a bit, with some much-welcomed shade, before heading off for several miles of unrelenting sun.  Rhio and I, along with being companions for C. on his long run, were also a "mobile aid station," carrying human water/electrolytes and snacks for everyone.  After several refueling stops, and retracing our steps back to the highway, we were only a little over a mile from home.  All three of us were hot, sweaty, sun-exhausted, and ready to get home.  Our total route was about 14 miles, and it was fun to see Rhio "figure it out," and realize that we were traveling with C. as part of our herd, although we didn't travel in step together very much.  On the way home, Rhio would trot ahead, then slow and wait for C. to catch up, then start to trot again as soon as we were abreast. 
Team Awesome!

We three have our sights set on two future team endeavors - trying out the sport of Ride and Tie, involving two runners and one horse, and riding/running the Vermont 100, a 100 mile race with ultramarathoners and endurance riders sharing the trail together. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Journey

It has been a long wait, but Rhio is finally here in Colorado with me.  This is the story of our travels, with bottom-of-the-heart thanks to my friend D. (who is feeding, loving, and riding Red for me this year) for all her generosity of time and energy in getting us along the first leg of our journey.  We began on Tuesday August 13, when D. picked Rhio up at his boarding barn (by herself, as I was seeing patients) and brought him back to her place for a sleepover.  He and Red shared the paddock for the night, and seemed quite happy and content to be together.  Late that night, I joined her family for the night, and the next morning we were up early to head to the Twin Cities. 

Rhio and Red sharing breakfast.
Rhio traveled alone quite calmly, as usual.  We arrived at a boarding facility in Shakopee (Pine Ridge Stables), where Rhio had a cool and shady box stall for the overnight.  It was fun to have the barn girls ooh and aah over his Arab cuteness.  That afternoon, we met M. and her Arab gelding Ring (a.k.a. "Stinkers"), who would be our companions for the two day trip.  We fussed with the trailer, talked about our boys and general horse stuff, and basically became immediate horse friends.

I had the good fortune to overnight with C., a good horse/endurance friend, and we made a trek to Fleet Farm (whoop! whoop!) and Rhio got a new hay bag (I "only" own about 4 hay bags currently, but I couldn't find a single one of them for the trip!).  After a good night's sleep, we were off for the barn in the pre-dawn darkness.  Rhio won't eat hay in the trailer while it's moving, so I like to get a big, wet beet pulp mash into him before we head off.  Also, I put him on a preventative ulcer medication for the whole trip, and definitely noticed a difference in his appetite.  Yay for a happy tummy!
Ready to roll.
We were hitched up, loaded, and ready to roll right around our target departure time.  We headed south, with Lincoln, Nebraska as our destination for the first day of travel.  The horses traveled great; Rhio's presence really helped Ring be settled and calm in the trailer.  I only wish Ring's awesome trailer appetite would have rubbed off on Rhio.  We arrived in Lincoln by early afternoon, pulling into a massive equine facility called the Lancaster Event Center.  There were no other horses there on a Thursday night, and we rented 3 stalls (2 for the horses and 1 for us.)  We had a small warm-up type arena in our barn so the horses could have a good roll and some freedom for a bit.  By this point, Rhio had been in a stall or a trailer for two days straight.  After feeding ourselves (found a pizza place that delivered to the Event Center), we took the horses for a nice leisurely stroll behind the building, finding plenty of fresh grass for grazing.  Rhio especially relished the flowering purple clover he

We went to bed early, on our partially-inflated air mattress (it worked well as long as we were both laying on it - if one of us got up, the other sank down to the ground as all the air migrated to the non-occupied side), listening to the horses munch their hay.  Rhio was relaxed enough  to lay down to snooze (a very good sign with him - he loves to lounge around) - there was only a stiff canvas type panel separating our prone selves from him.  Talk about bonding with your pony! 
Rhio in his stall at the event center. I had to put his hay bag in the back right corner so he could look out the door.
M. and Ring enjoy the lush grass in Lincoln, NE. (Eat up, ponies! The grass in Colorado isn't nearly this green.)
We hit snooze once in the morning, fed the horses, cleaned stalls, and were on the road again a bit later than we had hoped.  Both horses loaded back into the trailer without fuss; isn't it amazing how willingly a prey/flight animal will climb into a tiny box when we ask them to?  Thursday had been cool and cloudy for the whole trip - great trailering weather - but Friday's forecast had us hitting sunshine and mid-80s part way across Nebraska.  We stopped a few extra times on this leg, checking the boys, who were traveling like old pros.  By late afternoon, M. was dropping us off at the neighbor's place across the road from my house. 

Rhio ate some beet pulp, took a big long drink from the stock tank, and trotted off across his new huge 16 acre pasture to meet his new friends.  They weren't quite so excited to meet him; I think he spooked them, actually, and they all took off galloping.  Rhio clearly thought a nice run was fun, and quickly took the lead with his tail flying in the air.  The five resident horses kept to themselves, and Rhio was only allowed to graze within about 30 feet of them, but everyone settled down quickly without any outward jostling for hierarchy position. 
Turned out in the pasture for the first time.
Later that evening, on our dog walk along the bike path, which parallels the front of the pasture, we could see Rhio's gleaming white coat across the grassy expanse.  It sure does my heart good to see him, smell him, touch him, and feed him every day! 
Rhio's new buddy.
It took only three days for one of the horses to buddy up with Rhio.  He is still not fully integrated into the herd, but I'm thrilled to see him beginning to mingle. 

Coming soon...the story of our first ride in Colorado!
Rhio says, "Hey...watcha' lookin' at?"

Monday, August 5, 2013

I Think I Found An Acceptable Riding Route!

Rhio will be here in Colorado in exactly 11 days.  I think I have found a ride-from-home route that is totally doable!  There are trails within riding distance, but I have been questioning how rideable the roads are to get there.  The shoulders of the roads are generally narrow or non-existent, the drivers are zipping along, and the population of bicyclists is quite robust.  Although Rhio is fine with traffic, and good with bikes, it just doesn't leave enough margin of error in my opinion, and I have spent lots of time pondering how I'm going to go about riding out from home.

Yesterday we ran a 9 mile route from home, including bike path, roads, and trail, which is totally 100% doable with Rhio.  I'm quite certain of it.  I see horses (and their evidence!) on the bike path all the time, so the first two miles and last 1/2 mile on the bike path will be easy.  Then comes about 1 1/2 miles of road, 30 mph speed limit and an acceptable shoulder width for the most part (two sections with guard rails which could be dicey if cars are coming both directions, but I can always hand walk those.)  Then - a mile + of a dead end road leading to a trail head with the most direct route including 2 mile of rocky trail climbing up and over a significant ridge - I can also go south from this trail head and connect with more miles of trail- can't wait to explore that when I'm leaving hoof prints, not shoe prints!  The most dubious portion is the 3 miles along the road leading towards home from the ridge - on weekends, lots of traffic (bike and car) and little shoulder.  I may choose to do the trails, then turn around and retrace our hoof prints home.  But, I can't tell you how thrilled I am to have found a route that I know I'll feel comfortable riding!!!  Whoop, whoop!