Saturday, June 27, 2015

In which an item on my bucket list has (finally) been achieved

Endurance News, July 2015
cover photo by Monica Bretherton

We'll be in camp until after Renegade.  Please leave a message after the beep.

Friday, June 26, 2015

In which Fiddle has a hitch in her getalong, and we seek out help

Soundness is Fiddle's strength.

So when I see something odd with her gait, I don't dawdle around.  

When the vet noticed something a little glitchy at the midpoint vetcheck of Day 2 at Klickitat, I opted to ride her at a walk for the remaining 11 miles.  I could have pulled her at that point, but what we were seeing then was so intermittent that it was easy to doubt that there was anything there at all.  I was pretty sure she could finish without undue discomfort, and the vet agreed, so we went forward.

She probably could have trotted the remainder of the ride and still completed it without much trouble.  But why mess around with it?  We had plenty of time, so we walked--and she scored an "A" on her gait at the finish line.

A week later, I felt something a little hinky (thank you, Literary Horse, for that word!) at the start of a proposed 20-mile training ride last week and chose to flip around and return to the trailer immediately.  No need to stack miles on top of something that isn't quite right.

Four days later, it was farrier day.  We took some before/after videos.

Here is "before."

Kelsie is a young farrier, and she is very good about observing and adapting.

...but she won't shoe a turkey.

She has already learned that although Fee's feet look like they are straight out of the textbook, my mare clearly has not read the textbook!

We noted that the funkiest foot (her right hind) is showing the effects of this weird movement:  the shoe has twisted on her foot.  It's not a huge twist, because we caught it pretty fast.

The shoe didn't actually move--the nails are tight.  
Rather her foot traveled crooked often enough that 
the hoof grew more on the outside (right) than on the inside (left). 

Her hoof angles and overall growth of hoof tissue lengthwise was pretty even.  And replacing all the shoes so that the are flat and straight on the foot will support correct movement again.

Here is "after."

See the difference?  Definitely better.

If this were the off-season, I would stop pursuing treatment at this point.  But this is not the off-season, and as Viggo Mortensen's character says in Hidalgo, it's still a long way to Damascus.

Or in our case, Naches.

With the departure for Renegade looming, I made a ton of phone calls, and finally found an equine chiropractor who isn't at the Region IV horse show in Idaho this week.

Only, Dr. Fehr isn't just a chiro.  She gave Fee a thorough stem-to-stern evaluation, starting with a trot-out and trot in circles.

Next, she examined the acupressure avenues.

She's using the blunt end of a pink ballpoint pen to seek out reactive areas.

Some places on the body are sensitive because something hurts locally.
Sore spots from bad saddle fit would fit in this category.
Depending on the relationship between reactive places, deeper tissue pain
or dysfunction might be indicated.

Then, the more traditional muscle/skeletal exam.

Followed by chiropractic adjustment.

This is the spot we all expected needed adjustment.  

Not just the obvious spot.  There were small adjustments to make all over the body.

Stem-to-stern.  Fee, who doesn't normally like excessive touching,
was cooperative and compliant through the whole thing.

In one location, there were four adjacent spots that were "out," so she could only adjust two of them (otherwise the whole thing would go wonky).

Do not try this at home.  Trained professional.  Tame Dragon.
(I have practiced this move on her before, btw).

The result?

Well, she will PROBABLY feel a lot better in the morning, after everything settles down.  She will probably be "un-hinky," even.

It's possible, however, that her weird movement was compensation for a deeper injury.  By removing the compensation, she may seem worse because the real pain will be uncovered.

Given how happy she was to be adjusted ("really unusual" according to both the vet and the assistant), I'm guessing that the adjustment will make her more comfortable.  We did talk about adding some more support, aka Adequan or Legend.   My horse is 13 years old and she covers a lot of miles in a year, so more support is definitely on the table.

Short-term:  we are cleared for trail work at Renegade.  If she seems uncomfortable with any of the work, we will back off.  If she's sound and happy, we will progress forward and participate in the ride.

And we leave in the morning!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

In which Foxie leads the rampage and Fee trots out for the video

Mornings are often pretty quiet on the Farm.

Monica wakes up early to do artistic stuff with ferns, or with clay, or with her camera.

Only a real artist could make a turkey poult look pretty.
This young one died by misadventure a few days ago.
Apparently, turkeys don't swim well.  Sigh.
 Her brothers are doing fine.
Jim works such strange hours these days that "morning" doesn't really exist for him.

And I like to hear the morning Mozart program in the barn while I'm cleaning, before I wander around the farm to harvest breakfast.

strawberries and blueberries from the backyard

The dogs like a little more activity and noise in their morning.  Along with the cat, they enact what we like to call the "migration of the wildebeest herds" each day.

Today was a little more boisterous than usual, so I figured I'd share.

Notice that the cat plays the game along with the floofs!


On her last ride out, Fee seemed a little "off" at the trot.  Not lame, exactly, but a little glitchy.

Certainly not consistently lame enough to be pulled at an endurance ride, but the gait was oddball enough that I aborted the workout and went back to the trailer early.

We got video of her trotting.  Do you see what we see?

She's due for shoes on Thursday.  I'm also going to try to get the chiro out to see her (not an easy task on short notice) before we leave for camp.  She's certainly sound enough to do trail work with us in the woods.

As for the Renegade Rendezvous ride, I guess we'll let the ride vets help decide how far we go.

It's always something, right?

Saturday, June 6, 2015

In which there's always room here for a bit more floof and barking and mud

Roo and Luna have a new little brother!

Left-to-right:  Roo, Foxie, and Luna

Foxie Loxie Littledog weighs about 14 pounds.  (For comparison, Roo weighs close to 30 pounds).  He's bred to be tiny...even tinier than Pickles Marie Tinydog, who was about 16 pounds when we (finally, briefly) got her up to fighting weight!

This dog doesn't have any of Pickles' health concerns.  He's about a year old, and has had excellent health care his whole life.  His former owner

Former owner Pauline pets Luna, as Foxie explores the "new dog park"
in his new back yard.

recognizes that her city lifestyle was just fine for the elderly sheltie who died  last year, but isn't nearly engaging enough for a playful young dog.  She did a lovely job raising the pup. 

C'mon, Old Dog, let's run and play!

And now he has come to live here, where dogs have plenty of room to run and chase and bark, and nobody minds much when they shed and drag mud into the house.

Foxie Loxie tells Santa everything

He has got us all quite charmed.

Ear kisses are very sweet

And that is a Good Thing.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

In which the Klickitat Trek ride is hot...and fun...and also quite hot

We've been here before.

Our little camp under the trees (and away from the heat)

In fact, Fiddle and I have been to the Klickitat Trek several times in past years.  
In 2010, we went with Madeline, and there was silliness.
Last year, this was the first place I rode a 50-miler post-surgery  (I needed lots of help!)

I've also ridden this event in prior years with Story, Toad and Blaze.  

Fee's elegant lingerie (aka a fly sheet)

But there's always something new at Klickitat Trek.

Discussing the trail with Ride Manager Marilyn Milestone at the startline
of Day 2.  Fee has never done the second day here before, and she
was convinced that we were leaving camp to pull ribbons.

Part of the charm of this ride is the attention span of the ride manager--she likes new stuff, and she always tries to bring riders through new parts of this beautiful stretch of forest.

This road reminded me of a spot on the red loop at Renegade Rendezvous

We've had some unpleasant close encounters with other riders at recent rides, and I'm still trying to figure out a way to keep everybody safe.  Of course, that means that training with Fiddle is ongoing, but it also means trying to teach riders to give her a big bubble of personal space.

I don't know how to be less subtle.
I am VERY proactive about pulling off the trail when there's room, but sometimes folks ride right up behind her even on a wide two-track.  If they are quiet (and they sometimes are!  Why?) they startle both of us, and then they get to see Fee's back shoes AND hear some of my less-polite words.

This time, Crystal told me about something a rider in the SE region does as a joke.

"Freakin' BRILLIANT!"  I thought, and used the sidewalk chalk in my bag to tag the back of my horse.

It helped....sorta.   Several people still tailgated, apparently oblivious to the red ribbon, the red streak in her tail (it was brighter IRL) and the word KICKS written on her back door.  I managed to stop her from reacting.  

But seriously, what does it take?!?!


Out on the trail, we were mostly alone.

Nobody here but the Dragon and me...right?

Well, not exactly alone.

The Devil's Cattle Herd
Fiddle felt obliged to glare at each cow before trotting past.

At least we had Crystal to help at the vet check!  

The Dragon really likes Crystal

Crystal crewed at Klickitat last year, along with Patty and Sirie.  

Crystal shipped out to Afghanistan after crewing for me last year--and she
took her Klickitat Trek sweatshirt with her!

This year, the Fish Creek horses were grounded because of a respiratory bug at the barn--none of the endurance horses were sick, but it's considered a best practice to stay home when there's been exposure to illness.  

So this year I had Duana and Monica and Jim as crew in addition to Crystal....except sometimes there were glitches in the system, and my crew got hijacked by circumstances.

Hey!  Your car has a trailer hitch on it!  Bring it on over here!
Duana was dubious...but helpful...
Back out on the trail, we saw familiar places

single-track trails through the forest
Mount Adams lurking on the horizon

and brand-new stuff.


The trails here are pretty, and peaceful.  We had to make time in the morning, because the afternoons were HOT!  This boosted our finish times a bit, which was kind of nice.

The footing at this ride is deceptive--great traction, but the dirt is mainly
volcanic sand, and very abrasive.  Hoof protection recommended!!!

Thimbleberry blossom, nootka rose, and lupine flowers on the canal loop

We finished the 50-miler on Saturday, and the 25-miler on Sunday.

Ride photo by Cassidy Rae.
 Fee was "a little off" at the midpoint vetcheck on Sunday, so, with nearly 3.5 hours to finish the final 11-mile leg, we walked all the way to the finish line.

That abrasive volcanic footing is more obvious here

She thought that was a dumb idea.  But she did it.  And she vetted sound at the finish.

Would the bobble in her gait have resolved itself if we'd continued ahead at our usual brisk trot?

Maybe.  But it was a beautiful day, and a beautiful trail.  Why hurry?

Stopping to cool off in the irrigation ditch outside of camp before the finish line.
Photo by Cassidy Rae.
 And at the end of the day

Finish line, day 2.  Photo by Monica Bretherton.
We decided that we'd had plenty of fun.

It's good, y'all.

It's just really, really good.

Monday, June 1, 2015

In which I'm too tired to post anything but the teaser video

Day 1: fifty miles
Day 2:  twenty-five miles

This vid was shot at about 40 miles on Day 1, just after trotting--carefully--past the Devil's Own Cattle.  

Shhhhh. Be vewy, vewy qwiet.  Sneaking.....

Look carefully at the blue spot on the horizon above Fee's left ear, and you will see Mount Adams lurking there.

It. Was. Good.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

In which the joys of volunteering are espoused by somebody who knows

Is there anything better than getting really dirty...
and fixing stuff that needs to be fixed?

We built up this turnpike with native gravel and rock in 2013.
It still looks--and works--great to keep the horses out of the mud.

I've been documenting our volunteer trail work at the Renegade Rendezvous ridecamp since 2009, with plenty of photos and explanations about what is needed to put this ride together every year.  

Renegade Rendezvous 2010  Best overview of what we do.  Also, a post about dogs in camp.
Renegade Rendezvous 2011  Best photos here!  Lots of flowers!
Renegade Rendezvous 2012  Lots of friends and family joined us
Renegade Rendezvous 2013  Doing trail work when you can't walk is really hard
Renegade Rendezvous 2014  Returning to camp in the sunshine--lots of work to be done!

It's a beautiful place to spend time with friends...and while we're up there in camp during the week prior to the event, we get a ton of work done to prepare the trails for the hordes of riders who will show up on ride day to share a long distance adventure with a horse on some of the prettiest trails you will ever see.

We've got a faithful group of 4-8 people who show up every year, ready to work and have fun.

This year, however, we will need a LOT more volunteers than usual, because it turns out that

Yes, this is the SS Illegible and yes, he did park
that helicopter right off the starboard side.

helicopters are really messy.

After many years of threatening to log our corner of the Naches Wilderness, it's really happening.

And, because many of the hillsides where trees are harvested are really steep and also quite remote, the trees are being pulled out by helicopter and then staged in meadows...including the meadow that houses our ridecamp.

This twin-rotor, single seat helicopter can move a lot of trees

The problem isn't the staging meadows.  The problem is the mess that logging operations leave on our trails.

Limbs, branches, and tree tops scattered randomly on the hillsides...
and over the top of our trails.

We went up to camp this weekend to check it out.  The news is not great:

In addition to the usual seasonal blowdown, the trails have a ton of tree shrapnel
on them, and will require a LOT of work to clear.

The work is not impossible.

These branches can be pulled apart by hand

This tree top needed several people with tools to move it off the trail

The same trail, partly cleared

We use chainsaws,


and a fair amount of effort

to build the trails that our riders love.

It's not easy.

Dogs help.

but the work is very rewarding.  

There's really nothing like the satisfaction of trotting down a trail and recognizing a stretch of terrain that you, personally, cleared and prepared.  

Maybe you can point to a spot on the trail where the rocks have been raked away.  No horse is going to "meet his rock" here, because I threw them all off the trail! 

Maybe your horse climbs up an embankment and stops to breathe on a switchback platform you cleared and flattened.  I know there is good grass here, because I saw it when I helped build this.

Maybe you see branches by the side of the path, and you remember that they used to block the way.  I cleared this.  I made this trail.

Want to join the fun?

This is how Santa spends his off-season.
You'll want Santa to remember you this year!

We will be gathering up at the Renegade Rendezvous ridecamp starting around June 27th, and working through the week prior to the July 3-4th events.  We welcome hardworking volunteers.

If you've got a chainsaw, or trail building equipment and skills, great!

If you've never done anything like this before, but you're willing to help out with building, mending, and marking trails, that's great too.

What are you waiting for? 

We need your help this year. 

Come for a day or two before the ride, or join us for the whole week. 

Bring your horse, your kids, your dog, and your work gloves.

Green beans, this is your opportunity to get to know the trails and the folks who make endurance rides happen.

Experienced riders, here's your chance to pay back the universe for the happy hours you've spent on trails that other folks built.

Everybody:  join the fun. 

Contact Renegade Rendezvous ride manager Gail Williams and tell her you want to help.  Or contact me via the comment box, and I'll make sure you get the information you need.