Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Friday, October 11, 2019

A Little Scare

photo courtesy of Bob Zimmerman

This post is later than I would have liked, because I wasn't sure what the whole story would be.  About three weeks ago, Rhio, my son, and I attended the Run for the Ridge distance ride in Minnesota. This was the same venue at which we attended our last ride and completed our 50 miler.  As a side note, I’ve been focused on Rhio attaining his first 1000 AERC Endurance miles (we are still 45 miles short) and I forgot that riders also accrue lifetime mileage separately from the horses they ride.  Since I did one 50 on Red, about 10 years ago, I have actually just received my 1000 mile patch!  It was a surprise when it showed up in the mail.  Now to finish Rhio’s 1000 – next year if the stars all align! 

Photo courtesy of Bob Zimmerman

I’d agreed to vet the first day of the ride, so I set up camp right next to the vet check (for ease of dealing with a toddler while vetting and riding) and headed to the bar across the pasture we camp in with some riding friends.  My 21 month old was a hit at the bar, running around and smiling at everyone.  Which meant Mom got to enjoy her adult beverage and her friends’ company in short bursts of sitting down, while mostly following the toddler all over the place. 
Our campsite

Saturday started early, with 100 mile riders heading out when it was still mostly dark.  It was a pretty wet morning, and we were all very happy to have a building with a large porch roof to be out of the rain while watching riders head out on their various distances, and working on the horses as they returned from their loops for their vet checks and holds.  The weather got better all day, my son went through multiple changes of clothes due to his favorite sport of puddle stomping, and the horses and riders all had smiles on their faces.  With the help of friends, I managed to work and be Mom all day without too much complaint from the toddler.  He really is a trooper, and I’m so lucky that “Grandpa John” attends rides with my good friend C. and loves to watch my son.  They had several adventures together with the stroller all over camp. 

We had a lovely catered meal and awards in the evening, while both the 100 milers and the night LD riders were still on trail.  After a very full day of fun, fresh air, and minimal napping, my son went straight to sleep in the tent.  I used the time to get Rhio and I set up for morning, including putting his hoof boots on.  For all our years of competing together, the morning of the ride is a very anxious time for Rhio and it is difficult to get him to stand still for anything (grooming, tacking, mounting, and especially putting boots on). Add to that the distraction of an awake toddler while trying to get ready, and I knew I had to get as much done in the evening as I could.  Just like our last ride in August, Rhio was perfectly calm and perfectly behaved while camping the whole weekend, eating and drinking like mad.  With a sample size of only 2 - the August ride and now this ride - I really can't say with any certainty, but it seems that he is much more "chill" since I started using the new probiotic.  He is only getting it for a few days leading up to the ride and at the ride. But it is the only thing that I have changed, and he and I have been doing this together since 2007.  Maybe his age (19) has finally settled him, but it sure seems like that's not it.  There has been some research lately (in humans) about the connection between gut health and mental health, so there may actually be some evidence based science to back this up.  It is interesting, that's for sure!  And it has made my rides absolutely 100% wonderful. 

Looking cute (and relaxed!) 

Eating at the hold on our Sunday ride.
The final night limited distance riders finished up around 10:30 pm, and I headed to bed at that point.  One of the other vets was the lucky one to monitor the last of the 100 milers, who finished in the wee hours of the morning.  It was officially time for me to exchange my vet hat for my riding helmet!  Luckily I managed a good night of sleep, despite the fact that I'd forgotten my sleeping pad and had only a thick blanket and a sleeping bag to pad our sleeping space in the tent.  Toddlers don't notice that kind of thing, and he was sleeping soundly when I crawled in.  The sandy, soft ground meant I didn't mind too much, either. 
A through-the-ears view while warming up at the walk around camp. That I took this pic is clear evidence that I could actually take my hands off the reins! 
Sunday dawned clear and beautiful, and I was so pleased with Rhio’s calm, cool, collected self.  That is not normal for him on a ride morning! I was able to tack up without him spinning around, and then mount up and walk about the whole camp for a full 30 minutes on a loose rein.  It was kind of amazing, really.  I'm sure it looked completely unremarkable from the outside, but inside I was hooting and hollering with excitement over his stellar behavior. 
Early in loop 1.

Pretty sure we're both grinning! 

Loop 1.  Fall is making its presence known. 

The first loop (15 miles) was awesome and went quickly; our group of 4 riders ended up riding in two pairs, so it was just C. and Phoenix along with us.  The trails were slightly different than what we rode in August, and the footing was better than expected given all the rain the day before.  
Loop 2 

The final bridge crossing on our way back to camp at the end. 

The second loop (15 miles) was fabulous for the first 10 miles, but then Rhio started head bobbing significantly and suddenly. He was lame! I hopped off and removed his front boots, as I knew his left front boot was questionable even at the start, with a partially torn gaiter.  I couldn't see or feel any obvious reason for the lameness.  I remounted and we headed down the trail, and he was still not quite right, so I hopped off again and reset the saddle, as I’d noticed the pad had slid back slightly and maybe the saddle was putting a little too much point pressure on the left shoulder.  I got back on again, and he was much improved, though still not 100% perfect.  But he was more than willing to keep trotting down the trail, and was no longer obviously lame.  At the next water tank, I hopped off again to check everything and now removed his rear boots as well.  (He had had some slight rubs/pink skin under the gaiters after the first two loops of the 50 in August, I think due to sand build up under them.  So I just thought better safe than sorry, and pulled the boots.) We hit the 2 mile marker with exactly the right amount of time left to walk in to the finish. (We were riding in the Competitive division, where all entrants ride the course in the same allotted time and are scored based on their horses' fitness.)  Rhio was feeling great for the whole walk in and we finished right on time (a first for us! We have been over time slightly at the other rides we’ve done together this season.)

As soon as I hopped off at the timer, Rhio was clearly limping at the walk!  His left front had some significant heat, pain, and swelling in the area of the tendons on the lower leg.  Yikes!!!!  What the heck?!  How could he have been sound under saddle literally 30 seconds prior? Needless to say, I was freaking out.  We pulled our saddles and got ready for our pulse check, which he passed with flying colors.  Then it was time to have our vet check, and he was obviously lame for the vet as well. We were awarded our mileage, but did not get an official completion for the ride.  What a bummer!  I felt about as big as a flea, and totally sick to my stomach that I had hurt Rhio. 
A bag of frozen green beans wrapped to his leg for icing. 
Ice, leg wraps, and rest for a couple hours post ride while I packed up, then some anti-inflammatory medication and we loaded up for the ride home.  It was a 4 hour haul, and I was pretty concerned that he had a significant tendon injury at this point.  I had my husband meet me at the barn with more ice so I could treat him again before bed.  The leg was no better, but also no worse, when I unwrapped it back at the barn. 

Monday morning I went out first thing to ice and re-wrap the leg, and make him a small pen in the corner of the outdoor arena, so that he didn’t have to be stuck in the barn by himself. He seemed to be feeling fine, but the leg was still swollen (slightly improved) and he was still lame at the walk (also moderately improved).  I then called the local equine clinic to get an appointment for an ultrasound.

The rest of the week, he was stalled at night and in his little pen during the day.  I cold hosed and/or iced the leg every day, wrapped with poultice, and worried.  By Wednesday, the swelling was all gone and he was sound at the walk.  By Friday, the day of his ultrasound, he was really sick of his small pen and his leg looked completely normal.  

The ultrasound was all clear!  There was no damage at all to any of the tendons or ligaments in the lower leg. The blood vessels were enlarged, indicative of recent inflammation in the area, but there was no sign of injury, nor any indication what could have caused such an acute and siginifcant lameness without any external signs or any damage.  He was also sound when we trotted him. 

Ultrasound showing completely normal structures in the lower leg.  The three black circles on the left side and center of the image are enlarged blood vessels (fluid is black on ultrasound). The top of the image is the outside of the leg, so you can see the Superficial Digital Flexor Tendon, the Deep Digital Flexor Tendon, and the Check Ligament (part of the Suspensory).  
So now Rhio is on 2 weeks of turn out  (I’ve been gone for vacation for a week, and now I’m off on a 5 day work trip) and I will do a quick ride next week to make sure everything is good.  If so, we’re headed to the last ride of the season Oct 17 – 19! 

As a side note, they had a scale and I was able to weigh him – 880 lbs!  Interestingly, that is exactly what the weight tape measured just a few weeks prior, the last time I checked him. 

To everyone who has had a sudden injury to their horse, I feel for you.  This was the first time Rhio hasn’t finished a ride in his entire career.  The worry I felt, and the guilt at having continued riding, possibly worsening his injury, was intense.  I am so relieved to say that everything is, amazingly, fine!

So, what happened?  I will never know for sure.  My only two theories are that either he banged the back of his front leg with his hind hoof (although there was no dirt or scuff on his leg that would make me think so) or perhaps he was stung in the leg by a wasp? Having recently suffered a sting myself, I know that they cause intesnse swelling and pain but resolve quickly.  I would have thought he’d react to being stung and I’d have had some indication that it’d happened.  But, who knows? 
Image courtesy of Bob Zimmerman

Image courtesy of Bob Zimmerman

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Planes! Fish!

One of many ponds at Murphy-Hanrehan
On Sunday, I left my husband and son to their own devices (football) and trailered Rhio to a nearby park, Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve.  It is only 14 miles from the new barn and offers a nice amount of varied trail with some hills.  It's what I think of an "urban" park, as it's located within the greater metropolitan area of the Twin Cities.  When you are out on trail, however, it feels quite rural, with the exception of the planes.  We were obviously in one of the flight paths being used that day, as there were countless big jets flying over on their way to or from the international airport.  And, it must have been as nice a day in the sky as it was on the ground, as I noted at least 5 small recreational planes flying as well.  Rhio didn't seem to notice the planes, but I definitely did.  It's not something I'm used to while riding, as the majority of my hours in the saddle have been in much less populated (quieter) spaces.
The very start of our ride, up a hill from the parking and group camp area.
Rhio and I met up with our new friends Sparrow and T. for some conditioning miles.  Sparrow and T. are new to endurance and we met earlier this year at a Mock Ride hosted by our local endurance group.  I'm trying to get T. to come to a ride this year, and we've ridden together several times this summer.  The horses seem to enjoy each other, as do their riders.
T. aboard Jack Sparrow, bay horse of mystery lineage (but a very good boy! and he likes this trotting/cantering stuff!)
Hydration is important! Sparrow already knows how to drink on trail. 
Boy, nothing beats the view between these ears, no matter what they're pointed at! 
It has been unseasonably hot and humid these past few days, beginning on Sunday with highs in the 80s and full sun.  We received about 5" of rain the previous week, and all that water on the landscape has to go somewhere - so it either was saturating the air or standing on the trail!  Every water body was rushing and/or overflowing its banks.  Luckily the soils here are excellent in wet conditions, and it was not at all muddy.  We trotted most of the first 8 miles, with the exception of the flooded trail segment around a small lake.  For this 1/4 mile section, we walked through knee-deep clear water, which provided a first for me - fish on the trail!  Rhio was in the lead, and at one point a whole school of minnows darted off the trail and into the grass along the side.  That was a surreal experience!
The flooded section of trail, where I saw the school of fish.
The larger portion of ridable trails is on the "prairie" side of the park. We enjoyed nice vistas of blue stem grasses turning their pretty red color for fall, waterfowl and snowy egrets dotted the many ponds and small lakes, and  I even spotted an Eastern Bluebird, goldfinches, and some species of wren (kind of hard to do quality species identification at a trot!).
Blue stem turning red
We met many other riders, and several hikers & dog walkers, out enjoying the day, and everyone seemed to be having a most excellent time.  We did our last 3 miles on the other side of the park, on a narrower trail through tall oak forest.  There are more trails on this side, but they are closed and inaccessible.  We were forced to do an out-and-back style ride on this segment, as at the bottom of a hill, the trail was completely obscured by a pond full of duck weed.  We'd ridden through water on this section of the trail earlier in the summer, but the bottom was not solid like near the lake, and we didn't want to chance it.
Woodsy side of the park 
Overall, we did about 11 miles in 2 1/2 hours with 1100 feet of elevation gain.  It was fun, and Rhio feels great!  I'm thrilled to be so close to this park, and I imagine many more conditioning miles in our future at Murphy-Hanrehan.  I'm looking forward to our 30 mile ride at Run for the Ridge this upcoming weekend.

Post-ride snacking

Friday, September 6, 2019

A New Home for the Horses

In the outdoor arena
After 6 months at a big boarding stable only 10 minutes from the house, today Red and Rhio moved to a small private barn (4 horses total) about 20 minutes away.  They were champs for loading, hauling, unloading, and settling in - but of course I didn't expect anything less!

Enjoying the yard grass

Sampling the hay in the outdoor feeder (and making a crazy face because of the mosquitoes!)

They will have stalls at night, and be out in the pasture during the day with hay.  For the first few days, they will be in the outdoor arena to get to know the other two horses across the fence.  I love that I will have the ability to change Red's feeding strategy as needed to account for his dental issues. That will be another post of its own, but this summer we confirmed that Red's all-important chewing teeth (the premolars and molars) are pretty much out of commission.  While he's not technically missing any teeth, the majority of them are so loose that he can't really use them.  The move to this barn will provide him with better quality hay, that he hopefully can successfully eat, as well as twice a day meals of senior feed and beet pulp mash.

It is sometimes (often) difficult to manage the varying issues that crop up in senior horses. Red has pretty significant arthritis in his front legs, from his 2015 left front injury and just normal wear and tear throughout life.  Arthritis is best managed with full-time turnout, so that the joints stay mobile and lubricated as best they can.  His dental disease, however, necessitates special feeding, which is easier accomplished with individual stalling.  So, we will see how things balance out in the new barn and how the change of living circumstances affects both his mobility and his body condition (which is basically his ability to take in and utilize calories).  I have no doubt that they will both be much better attended to in the small, private barn.  But it will be mighty strange to A) not see them every day for feeding and B) not have an entire feed room of supplies, buckets, bins, tubs, etc in our garage anymore!
Stall boy! I do think they may really like their stalls.  They have in the past at other barns. 

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Beware the Pay Box

It was a lovely late afternoon! 
Saturday afternoon, and I can have a couple hours to myself to ride.  I head over to pick up my friend C. and her mare Phoenix, and we decide to try out a local county park that is only about 20 minutes from her house.  We've heard that it's a pretty popular place to ride locally.  We pull in to see the camping area pretty full, including with some horse folks.  I take this as a good sign, that the trails must be pretty decent.
Rocks are good for mounting!  The vehicles you can see are the camping area, and at least 3 rigs were there with horses. 

We get ready to ride, and I head over to drop some cash in the pay box for our "suggested donation" to the park.  It's one of those metal posts with a skinny slot at the top for sliding money in.  I crouch down just enough to see the slot (it has a little overhang, presumably to protect it from rain getting in the hole) and fold up the bills to push them in.  Just as the bills begin to slide through, out fly angry wasps (or something related).  Luckily they actually weren't too aggressive, as I took a couple quick steps back and they didn't really swarm me.  I am stung on my left wrist, but it is only a single sting.  And I'm not allergic.  But getting stung always makes me mad!  Especially when I wasn't trying to aggravate them, and in fact didn't even know they were there.  I get that they were defending their nest, but I was not happy.  And I didn't get the cash in there, it fluttered to the ground. I retrieved it about 10 minutes later, after they were all safely back inside the box, waiting for the next unsuspecting human.  Sorry, Sibley County Parks, no donation for you today!

The stung wrist.  Red mark with white around is the actual sting.  It swelled from the base of my hand about 1/3 of the way up my inner forearm. 
We didn't have any ice, but I did have a bucket of cold water I'd brought for the horses, and I stood with my entire arm submerged for at least 5 minutes.  It felt good, but didn't really seem to help the rapidly spreading swelling and redness.  I didn't have any Benadryl with me (note #1 for the day: put some human meds in the horse first aid box!) but I figured I'd survive.

This park (High Island Creek County Park) is situated on top of some bluffs, with the park area straddling the creek on both sides.  Basically, what was too steep or flooded too much to farm, was designated as park. This creek drains into the Minnesota River, and descends from the former prairie (now cropland) to the west into the river valley.  The trail went directly down from the camping/parking area to the creek.

Trail down through a 2nd picnic area and to the creek. 
We last had rain 4 days ago, but the water was still completely opaque with silt and had a decent current.  We could see hoof prints across, so we knew horses had been crossing there today.  I urged Rhio in, and after a good drink, he started somewhat reluctantly across.  He veered downstream, and suddenly we were in water up to my knees (while mounted).  He didn't care for that too much, but handled it calmly and just turned toward the bank and got out of the river.  Now he was convinced it was not safe to cross, and refused to reenter the river.  I figured as I was soaked through up the knees already, I might as well just get off and lead him across.  That way I could check the footing and the depth as I went.  So I did, at one point getting crotch deep, and he followed me willingly, with C. and Phoenix right behind.  Now I'm wet-wet, and have a swollen throbbing wrist.  This is starting to sound like endurance riding!

We follow the "trail," which at this point is just a narrow path barely wide enough for horses with jungly, creeping, and often thorny/pokey vegetation nearly obscuring it.  It turns out, after talking to a pair of riders who are very familiar with it, that this is the "main trail" (the stem of a flower is how it was described to us.)  We reached what seemed to be its terminus in a more open grassy area with a sand-filled wash ahead of us.  I could see hoofprints ahead, so we kept going.  We had previously passed one or two turnings to the right which also had hoofprints, but were even less of a trail than the one we were on.  This was no exception, dwindling into a deer path rather quickly.  We continued on until encountering a Private Property sign, and a fence.  We then turned along the fence to our right, as the creek was to the left.  We continued to follow the barest hint of a path, bushwhacking around numerous deadfall and the like.  Eventually we were faced with a huge, steep climb to get back out of the creek bottom land and up onto the bluff.  We did the first half, and the horses were working hard, huffing and puffing pretty good.  After a little leveling off, we turned into what was clearly another washed out gully packed with sand and debris.  (Have I mentioned that our area has been flooded and/or inundated with excess and heavy rainfall pretty much since the temperatures got above freezing?)

I scouted up this barely-even-a-path on foot and decided after looking around at the top, that there was no better way to get up.  But there was another sorta-obvious path up top, heading back in the general direction of the truck and trailer.  We opted to hike up on foot due to the incredible steepness (I used hands AND feet a couple times on my first foray up it) and the questionable footing (mud, sticks, etc). I tried to tail Rhio, where he leads and I follow, grabbing his tail for extra power to get up the hill.  He wasn't at all sure that UP was where we should go, so I had to mostly lead him.  C. had great luck tailing her mare up, though!

We set off attempting to follow this "trail," and encountered the western park boundary and more deadfall obscuring the trail.  After bushwhacking around, we again found something that looked much more trail-like and followed it back down nearly to where we'd started up the steepest part.  Geesh!  I guess that was an exercise in futility...or just good hill work for the horses? We also found a slightly rusty horseshoe in the trail, so I guess we weren't the only ones who'd made it up here, and I guess that it was actually a "trail."
The steep hill.  I'm only about 2 horse lengths in front of C., further up the hill.  See how tiny she looks!  Very steep indeed!
With much backtracking, fumbling around, stepping over logs, and ducking under branches, we made it back down the entire hill to the sandy wash we'd originally started in.  I suppose we'd just completed a "loop."  There was a nearly impenetrable wall of super thorny shrubbery between us and the main path, so we kind of just bulled our way through until we were back into the grassy area.  Rhio for sure knew the way back to the trailer, as he was eager to move out down the path back to the water crossing.  We retraced our steps from there, despite running into the riders who explained the "trail system" to us and told us that another portion was particularly good.
This is the "good" path.  Note the jungle-like vegetation. 
I would term these paths "social trails," as they're clearly just paths worn into the landscape with use. There was absolutely no trail planning, construction, maintenance, or maps.  It was quite the adventure.  I am very glad I had Rhio, who is so incredibly steady and willing when I point him into the woods and say, "go there, no wait, go this way, oh, hold on, turn around here!"
The biggest bummer - my phone app didn't function to capture our route, speed, time, or distance.  I know we rode for about 90 minutes.  We climbed up and descended the bluff twice.  We crossed the river both going and coming.  We rode through spider webs too numerous to count.  And my little and ring fingers were only mildly tingling from the swelling in my wrist impinging on the nerves!  It's a win in my book.  And, nope, we won't be back!  But soaking wet leather boots are a very good excuse to clean and condition them, which they've desperately needed.

High Island Creek

Thursday, August 22, 2019


So, it turns out that having a (human) baby greatly reduces one's available free time for writing blogs (and many, many other things!).  It's been  2 years since I last posted - our son is now almost 20 months old.  We've moved, the boys are back in boarding, and Daria returned to her breeder's herd.  I'm going to just pick it up where I left off, writing posts as I can and sharing my horse life with my readers.

Run for the Cactus 50 mile Endurance ride, August 17, 2019

Rhio is 19 and still going strong!  I guess an old(er) rider and horse team can learn new tricks, as I changed a couple things with his protocols for the ride and he scored better on his vet card all day than he has in the past few years.

Ride prep starts the week before the ride.  Unfortunately, a new batch of hay at the stable gave both boys a bit of diarrhea and "gurgly tummy," so I started them on a new-to-me probiotic ASAP.  It was wonderful!  It really seemed to make a difference, and I kept Rhio on it all week and through the ride weekend.  I have used probiotics frequently over our years of competition, but I haven't felt that I could decidedly tell a difference with prior ones.  With this product, he was eating extremely well, and even ate most of a flake of alfalfa-grass mix hay in the trailer on the way to the ride on Friday night!  That is a very rare thing for him, as he is not a good eater on the trailer.

Beet pulp mash with electrolytes and probiotics in the week leading up to the ride. 
I also started syringing him with plain kaolin-pectin (the pink stuff - it smells like bubble gum but the flavor is pretty mild/bland) a couple days before the ride, to get him used to the taste.  It's a buffer used to help make the electrolytes less harsh on the stomach.  He hates being syringed and in the past has refused to eat after I've given him electrolytes via syringe at rides.  I'd decided to pre-mix my powdered electrolytes with the kaolin-pectin at home in the blender, then add a bit of liquid electrolyte solution at the ride, and dose before and during the ride via syringe.  I'd been just putting the powder into his mashes, which he typically doesn't consume very readily during the ride,  anyway.  So the few days of just the pink stuff did acclimate him to it, and dosing during the ride was easy-peasy!  And, even more important, he kept eating!

Besides getting Rhio ready with diet/supplement tweaks, I also washed my girth, saddle pads, and half chaps.  Packed everything needed for 1 horse, 2 dogs, 2 adults, and 1 toddler to camp, eat, sleep, poop, and ride for the weekend.  Prepared food to feed all said beasties, two- and four-legged.  And completed various other myriad packing and prepping tasks.  It truly takes me all week, in between daily life, working, and being a toddler mom.  We had a plan to leave immediately after my husband finished work (i.e. I'd be all loaded and waiting for him in the back alley with the truck and trailer, since work is 30 minutes from home in the direction we were headed.) It was going to be a 4 hour drive, and we'd be getting there at or after dark.

And then, my carefully constructed plan imploded with both hubby and I getting late patients, and then hubby deciding he and toddler and 1 dog would stay home, after all.  So, I hurriedly unpacked a bunch of the stuff, fetched the toddler from daycare before they closed, went to the stable to load Rhio (with a small meal of Outlast and a handful of senior for his tummy prior to hauling), and meet hubby back at home to hand off the toddler.  Whew.  Ok.  Ready to go.  It's only 6:45 pm, 1 hour and 15 minutes after I'd planned to be on the road.

The trip was uneventful, with Rhio hauling calming and quietly as he usually does, Smokey riding shotgun, and little traffic.  I pulled into ride camp at 10:30 pm, having no difficulty finding it (whew! my night vision is TERRIBLE) and even saw a spot to park right there next to the entrance drive.  I pulled in, trying to be as quiet as possible, and proceeded to get Rhio's electric pen set up, his mash made, hay and water fed for the night, the tent set up, and my contacts out and teeth brushed in exactly an hour, under a beautiful full moon.
11:30pm Friday night, all settled in for the night

I slept poorly, as I usually do the night before a ride, and "helped" by the extremely bright moon keeping the inside of my tent nearly light enough to read without a headlamp.  I checked my phone many times, worried I'd overslept my 4:20 alarm.  When 4:20 rolled around, I got up and got dressed in my riding clothes,  put Rhio's hoof boots on, and then walked up to the office area (in a building with electricity! how nice!) to get my ride card and a map and a quick run down of the vital information for the 50 miler.  One of the vets was ready to vet me in, so I traipsed back to the trailer to grab Rhio, and vetted in, still in the dark.  I'd lugged my vet check stuff up with me as well, so I quickly got that set up for myself, and went back to get ready.  I remembered to eat something, I forgot to take my ibuprofen, and I was ready to head out pretty much at start time of 6am.  It was 6:05 when I left camp, the last 50 heading out on trail.  I knew Rhio would catch up to the next horse in no time, which he did.

We rode briefly with the second-to-last horse before Rhio decided he had more horses ahead to catch, and we proceeded to catch and pass the next group of 3 riders.  He wanted to keep going, so we stayed just a little ahead of them until the first water stop.  As we arrived, the next group of riders was just leaving, and so Rhio set his sights on those horses, and didn't want to stop, drink, eat, or relax at all.  We caught and passed that group as well, but I knew we weren't going to sustain that pace for the rest of the long first loop (22.5 miles) so I jumped off at the second water stop and waited for the group behind us to catch up.  From then on, all 5 of us rode the entirety of the rest of the ride together.  Which is shocking to me, actually, as I typically do not like riding in groups larger than 3.  But all the horses and all the riders got along so well all day, with zero disagreements or even crabby ears, that it was fun and relaxing to ride together.

Loop 1, about 11 miles in, 7:30am 

Sweet, clear, cool water 

The river! 

Single track - note the yellow and blue ribbons for trail marking. 

Loop 2 - water stop next to a bean field.

The bridge coming and going to/from camp.

The best part of this ride was the river! We stopped here on every loop, and it is undeniably the best water access/drinking/sponging place I've ever seen on a ride.  The water is perfectly clear, the bottom is perfectly firm with zero rocks, and it's level and mostly shallow.  By the third loop (hottest part of the afternoon), we were spending 10 minutes here sponging our horses and letting them cool down.  I'm pretty sure the horses looked forward to the river as much as we did!

The trails were great footing, and a nice mix between knee-knocking single track and two-track were you could easily move out and cruise along side by side.  The only difficulty we had on trail was an irrigation contraption that was spraying water about 15 feet above us, from the other side of a row of trees.  So we couldn't see the machinery, but we could first hear it (what's that noise?) and then see the water spraying through the tops of the trees (!!), and then feel the water hitting us and the trail (!!!!).  Wow, that was an "obstacle" that I had never dreamt of seeing.  Basically, we had to run through a giant sprinkler on our quivering horses.  But, we did all survive.

Loop 3
We finished in great shape with a ride time of 7:36.  All five of us completed with happy, sound horses.  Rhio ate and drank like a champ all day, took his syringed electrolytes without much fuss, and had the best vet scores he's had in forever (all As on hydration parameters and gut sounds the entire day!).  We had a few rubs - a slight girth rub after loop 1 which caused me to switch from mohair to fleece and add a coating of zinc oxide ointment to his armpits, and a very minor amount of rubbing from sand in the gaiters of his hind hoof boots, so that I pulled his boots and did the last loop barefoot.  I got a few rubs myself, more than Rhio actually, and am still nursing along a very bad rub on the side of my neck from my hydration pack (see my last post on the blog, from 2017!).

Overall, I absolutely loved this ride and can't wait to come back.  I'd forgotten how much I love to ride 50s.  And I am very proud of my pony.  We are within 1 year and 1 more endurance ride of both our Decade Team and 1000 Endurance Miles with our national governing body, American Endurance Ride Conference.

And, hubby and toddler survived their boys' weekend at home just fine.

The morning after

Completion prizes - first aid kit for the diaper bag, big hook for the hay bag (or whatever), and a new jelly scrubber (I've lost all my other ones).  I couldn't have gotten a more perfect bag of stuff!