Sorry, sorry! I have been terrible at keeping up with my blogging this summer! There is much news in my horsie life, but I will try to contain myself so this doesn't get ridiculously long. The boys have moved to a new boarding barn, about a month ago. Things are going relatively well there, and Red is getting to be a horse, part-time. More about Red in another post!
Rhio has had a tough summer. On May 30, the boys moved to the farm out west of town, with trail access and lots of other boarders. Red got hurt. Rhio spent a few weeks hanging with Red in the small paddock, but as Red went on stall rest for his fracture, Rhio went out with the herd (one of three at this facility). His herd was 6-7 horses, with 2 mares in the group. They had a pasture during the day, and a large dry lot at night. The freedom to run around, and gallop up and down the lane leading from the dry lot to the pasture, was very good for him. He loves room to move! He buddied up with another gelding pretty quickly; interestingly, it was the other lightest-in-color horse in the group, as most of the group had dark coats. I hate to say it, but horses do frequently seem to discriminate, or at least pick their friends, based on coat color! We had direct trail access, and friends to ride with; life seemed good.
In a matter of 2-3 weeks, Rhio had lost almost 100 pounds, despite daily grain and daily beet pulp. One of the horses in the herd was especially rough and violent toward the "new" horses in the group: Rhio and the other two, newer geldings. He was a bully. Rhio is a pacifist and a conflict-avoider. He chose to stay in the dry lot well into the morning, after the herd was at pasture, just to avoid this particular horse, who was guarding the lane to the pasture and not allowing the newer horses to go out. I did not fully understand when I chose this facility that the horses were not given hay at night, but taken off pasture without feed for 12-14 hours every night. For "easy-keepers" and horses that don't work very hard, this might be ok. (Although I really don't believe it is okay for any horse to be routinely fasted for long periods of time! Their gastrointestinal tracts and physiology are very negatively impacted by this type of management; they are designed to eat 24/7 as their stomachs produce acid continuously, regardless of whether they are eating or not.) For Rhio, this management scheme, unsurprisingly, spelled disaster! Additionally, the pasture was totally overgrazed and did not provide adequate forage whatsoever.
I went to the barn every day. All summer. For the first half of the summer, I went twice a day. It was 22 miles one way from my house. I bought my own hay. I fed Rhio supplemental hay, in addition to copious amounts of beet pulp, alfalfa pellets, and his ration of pelleted feed and fat supplement. I quit riding him, except to ride him out to graze along the trail. I hand grazed him. I watched him acquire bites, kicks, scrapes, and wounds. I watched his ribs become more and more visible. I cried. I fumed. I lamented, yet again, that I need to board my horses and cannot have them at home. But the one thing that needed to happen, couldn't. I needed them to move to a better place, where they would be fed. But I had Red, injured and on stall rest, unable, physically, to endure a trailer ride to a new home. I was stuck. They were stuck. Looking back on it now, I had no idea how stressed I really was.
|Some of his wounds.|
|One time I tried to ride, and dismounted within a mile to let him eat, because he was desperate for food.|
At the end of August, I decided it was now or never, and Red had to be ready to move. I found a new place only 8 miles from my house, with plentiful pasture and a few herd mates. There is a barn with stalls if need be, and good hay. The downside: nowhere to ride except the asphalt roads with no shoulders. But, I wasn't able to enjoy the trail access I had, anyway, since I wasn't willing to ride Rhio in his stressed, skinny state.
The day we moved (heartfelt thanks to my friend S. for spending her evening hauling my horses with her rig!), the boys loaded right up, Red in a protective, supportive bandage on his injured leg, and we hauled them about 45 minutes to my friend L.'s house. We dropped Rhio off there, where he spent an overnight with his endurance ride buddy Bravo (eating non-stop, according to L.) and took Red on to the new boarding barn nearer my house. I met L. the next day, and we were off to the Northern Highland distance ride near Merrill, WI (north central Wisconsin). Rhio and I hadn't been to a ride since June!
|Rhio and Bravo staring at ???|
|Riding with Bravo!|
|Oh, we love this!|
|Enjoying the new pasture.|
|Zoomies in the new pasture! And, yes, that's Red in the background - out in the pasture!|
On Sunday, they picked us up and all three of us went to their local trails to ride. Fun, fun, fun!!! Rhio and I had a blast seeing trail for the first time in a month, and we did an easy 8+ mile ride on a gorgeous fall afternoon. After settling Rhio into their back pasture, we hatched plans for more rides during the week. Yesterday, B. was able to get off work early and we trailered the 5 miles to the local trails, and did a real conditioning ride. Rhio was on fire, leading B. and her boy Scout on a 12+ mile trot/canter with an overall average pace nearly 7 mph. Zoom, zoom! That is plenty fast enough to complete an endurance ride in the time allotted, with extra room to spare. We saw turkeys, Cooper's hawks, and a porcupine "running" down the trail in front of us as fast as it could go. Rhio was so, so forward and happy; it was a blast to ride him. I noticed that when he led (99% of the time), he used his back, rounding it up under my seat and moving out in a really balanced, efficient, effortless stride. Those adorable ears were pricked, eagerly looking down the trail in front of us. There was so much joy in both of us, it's really hard to put into words. During the 1% of the ride that Scout led, Rhio traveled with a hollow back, head and neck thrown up in the air, ears back, head weaving from side to side (so he could look behind us - apparently he takes back-of-the-pack responsibility to make sure nothing sneaks up on us VERY seriously!), gait all bouncing and atrociously uncomfortable to ride. Huh, I can't say that I've ever noticed before quite how different he moves (very poorly) when he's not leading.
|Rhio checks the map at the Machickanee.|
|Post- 12 miler at the Machickanee.|
By the way, Rhio did earn his 1000 mile UMECRA award this year and we'll be getting a plaque at convention in January! Woo hoo!!! We actually earned it at the first ride of the year, but it's taken a while to straighten his mileage record out and get it officially noted. I am definitely more interested in the longevity awards in my sport: 1000 mile UMECRA horse (1000 miles in competition, including all divisions), 3000 mile AERC (seems like a pipedream, but it's a goal to work toward - you get your horse's picture and story in Endurance News for this one!), and Decade Team AERC (10 years of endurance competition as a team - Rhio and I have 6 years as of 2015). I'm very proud of my pony, and feel very accomplished to have reached 1000+ miles in competition with him - we have been partners every step of the way.